Friday, November 30, 2007
Breaking News! The Pollocks Are Fake!
The totally Nerdolicious and charismatic forensic scientist James Martin wittily proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is something the Matter with the Pollocks!!!
If you want the straight story, the cache of alleged Jackson Pollock works found by the son of artists who were friends with the late Abstract Expressionist has been disputed for years, generating controversies among art historians, gallerists, curators, conservators, scientists and lawyers. Many of the disputed works are on view at the Boston College Museum in a show called Pollock Matters. But at a Standing Room Only panel organized by the International Foundation for Art Research, which I was extremely fortunate to attend, a leading expert on Pollock and two scientists raised serious questions against the attribution.
Here is the link to the NYTimes article:
Scientist Presents Case Against Possible Pollocks
By RANDY KENNEDY
Published: November 29, 2007
A large group of paintings discovered several years ago and thought by some to be by Jackson Pollock included many containing paints and materials that were not available until after the artist’s death in 1956.
For full story:
The brilliant art historian and Pollock expert Pepe Karmel began the evening's lectures by demonstrating that the focus on materials since the works were first unveiled means that the issue of connoisseurship has been overlooked. He showed how, looking carefully at the color, composition, application of paint, and condition of the works, one can compare those with Matter provenance to known Pollocks and find notable differences between the two. Giving very specific examples, he demonstrated why there is something the matter with the Matter pictures which look like the work of someone who has taken Greenberg's paradigm of "all overness" literally, there are problems with scale, with the grounds used, and many other issues.
The works look more like Herbert Matter's known pictures than Pollock's, so, he suggested, could they be works by Matter experimenting "in the manner of Pollock"?
Then Richard Newman, a scientist from the MFA Boston spoke, he was very impartial in tone and summarized various studies conducted by scientists on these works.
Finally, James Martin presented for the first time the results of his research. He had allegedly been threatened with lawsuits if he spoke publicly about his research. This of course made listening to its unveiling all the more exciting. Martin, who works with the FBI among other institutions, combined police-type research, interviews, and the like, with hundreds of scientific tests. He enraptured the entire room, you could hear a pin drop, and there were gasps as he developed his arguments. It was like a live artworld version of CSI!!! Who knew that science could be so exciting? It is when a life-or-death issue is at stake: do we or do we not have a new body of work by one of the canonized Masters of American art? If so, how many millions are they worth?
Martin went over many inconsistencies in Alex Matter's stories regarding the date(s) the works were found and the location(s) where they were found. He also mentioned that he examined the warehouse records of the storage where they were found and that Matter and his mother had access to the space (this led me to ask if they knew the works were there all along or perhaps placed them there after Herbert Matter died?) He conclusively showed that the boards used in some of these works were not produced until the mid 1970s, he also discussed at length the pigments. Most of those were from the mid-1970s or later. Then and thankfully using layman's terms as much as he could, he explained why he learned that many of the works include these pigments from the 1970s-80s at the lowest layer, and then are covered over with pigments available starting in the 1960s. Some of these pigments available only as of the 1970s are used for the initials "JP" in some works. He added that for some, this type of situation may raise questions of intentional misattribution and fraud.
Of course, to my recollection, all three were careful not to literally say that the works are fake, but they presented scholarly arguments that convinced me for one, that they are.
I felt like I had been a witness to a historic event that will be part of art history.