Griselda Pollock
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Three memories
Rosenberg and Monroe
in Killing Men & Dying Women
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Offering personal testimony of three encounters with Lee Krasner’s work, Pollock focuses on her collage work using sliced-up drawings in the mid-1970s, a retrospective exhibition in 2000 curated by Robert Hobbs, and a visit to Canberra. Returning to her critical dialogue from the Introduction with David Anfam, who cruelly reviewed Hobbs’s Krasner exhibition, dismissing his proposition that her 1970s work was a postmodern deconstruction of the self, she proposes a reading of Krasner’s recurring affirmation that her art was ‘biographical’ by introducing Harold Rosenberg’s thesis on action in painting as a political gesture of post-war, post-Hiroshima, post-Holocaust despair and defiance. This enables a deeper, social-historical-biographical entanglement to be plotted into the specificities of New York abstract painting. Alert to class, Rosenberg was indifferent to race, gender and sexuality. Pollock returns to Sun Woman I, reading it for an echo of Marilyn Monroe as a riant pathos formula, the Nympha figure of enlivening. She thus escapes the deadly triangulation that she posed at the start. Was Monroe-ness – the lively embodiment and visual performance of the feminine – indirectly discoverable in abstract painting, inscribed by the one painter who might answer back to Julia Kristeva’s scepticism about the possibility of women’s creation (and female laughter), Lee Krasner, painting her way through grief (for her painter-partner and for her mother) and beyond what Prophecy had allowed to surface? Monroe and Krasner can thus be aligned as both creative, enacting/acting women traversing the modernist splitting of the masculine avant-garde from feminized popular culture.

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Killing Men & Dying Women

Imagining difference in 1950s New York painting


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