Spontaneity in the work of Jackson Pollock, Charlie Parker, and Jack Kerouac

During the decade following World War Two, a body of artistic work was created that clearly articulated for the first time, a distinctly American aesthetic, independent of European models. This is not to say that celebrated works like The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Appalachian Spring and Roy Harrisʼ Third Symphony are not recognized as American masterpieces; but their American characteristics are expressed through content, rather than form or methods of production. Fitzgerald and Hemingway all furthered their apprenticeship in Europe during the 1920s while Copland and Harris studied in Paris with Boulanger. It remained for the next generation of the avant garde, living for the most part in New York, to create original schools through the modes of Abstract Expressionism, the new chromatic jazz of Be Bop, and the literature of the Beats. The singly most important characteristic of the new American expression was the central role played by spontaneity and improvisation yielding works of astonishing vibrant surface detail.

The emphasis on the spontaneous as an alternative to the careful and rational reflected larger cultural and philosophical issues. In seeking a subjective, existential view of reality, honesty, authenticity, were prized over the objective world view, process over product. Whether expressed in gesture painting, spontaneous bop prosody, or the chromatic flights of bebop, the emphasis was on the experience, rejecting the academic craftsmanship of revision as antithetical to the glorification of the now.This emphasis plus the incorporation of elements from African and Native American sources were interpreted as an attack on the privileged hegemony of the Anglo-American academy. Beat writers were ridiculed by proponents of the New Criticism who vaunted T.S. Eliot as their model. Kerouacʼs spontaneous prose was dismissed as “mere typing” by Truman Capote. While mainstream journals such as Life magazine devoted some attention to abstract art, it was more often of a patronizing nature, referring to Pollock as “Jack the Dripper”. The new jazz faced opposition even within its own ranks, even prompting a revival of New Orleans music, now called “Dixieland”. Louis Armstrong dismissed bop as making about as much sense as “Chinese music”. So with its fusion of modernist complexity with vernacular) or “street”) immediacy the new art represented a third alternative to European elitism and mainstream pop culture. In an even larger context, the avant garde of the late 1940s represented a reaction to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag – the latter having a dampening impact on the leftist Communist idealism of the 30s. Whether implicit in words or explicit in painting and music, the avant garde became a central voice in the new bohemian counterculture criticism of United States political and corporate globalization with its strategy of cold war xenophobia and domestic consumerism. The full effect of this will not be fully realized until the mid 1960s when the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Viet Nam galvanized many to question the policies of the government.

 

Jackson Pollock photographed by Arnold Newman for LIFE Magazine, 1949

 

Charlie Parker, at the Carnegie Hall, New York. Photo by William P. Gottlieb, 1947

 

Jack Kerouac in his Long Island home displaying one of the scrolls on which he composed his books, unidentified photographer, 1964.

 

Three artists, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Charlie Parker (1920-1955), and Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), play a central role in the emerging post war avant garde, each incorporating elements of spontaneity to their arts. The outline of their biographies shows many similarities. Roughly of the same generation, each were born and raised in provincial settings, Pollock in Cody, Wyoming, Parker in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts. Each came from working class blue collar maternally dominated families, with dysfunctional (Pollock and Kerouac) or nonexistent (Parker) relationships with their fathers, Pollock and Kerouac becoming highly misogynistic. Each produced their most important work in New York beginning around 1945, where they all habituated the same Lower East Side and Greenwich Village neighborhoods, often hanging out in the same bars and coffee houses. All three experienced difficult personal lives, cut short from substance abuse resulting in early deaths (Pollock at age 44. Parker at 35, and Kerouac at 47). What is of great interest is the mutual interest and influence among the artistic intelligentsia of the period. Much of Kerouacʼs innovative spontaneous prose sketching achieved most notable in Visions of Cody and The Subterraneans were heavily indebted to his sophisticated knowledge of jazz. Several of the “choruses” in Mexico City Blues are profiles of Parker, Lester Young, and other musicians. Lee Krasner, Pollockʼs wife, has documented the painterʼs interest in jazz as well as classical music. Night Clubs, such as the Five Spot, doubled as jazz venues as well as art galleries.

 

 

A Pollock painting illustrates the cover of Ornette Colemanʼs, Free Jazz, released in 1959. Some artists worked in several disciplines, most notable saxophonist Larry Rivers who became a prominent painter, composer-novelist Paul Bowles, pianist-poet Cecil Taylor, and poet-painter-composer Weldon Kees. Poetic recitation with jazz, begun with Kenneth Patchen and Charlie Mingus included performances at the Village Vanguard with Kerouac who recorded with tenor men Zoot Sims and Al Cohn as well as recited on television with Steve Allen backing him up on piano. The image of these performances, with their “beards,bongos and beatniks” became simplistic cultural clichés in the late 1950s. perpetuated by the mainstream media in an attempt to trivialize and ridicule the movement. To reiterate the central thesis of this argument, the main thread that unites this rich period of American creativity is the use of improvisation for the purpose of creating art characterized by great emotional and intense expression.

 

American Zeitgeist: Spontaneity in the work of Jackson Pollock, Charlie Parker, and Jack Kerouac
Randall Snyder
(Excerpt)

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Penelope’s Hungry Eyes

Self-portrait, London, 1972

 

Abe Frajndlich was born in 1946 to in Frankfurt. At the age of ten he moved to the United States via Israel, France and Brazil. His role model and mentor was photographer Minor White, from whom he learnt “the art of seeing”.

It is with “hungry eyes”, but also with a tenacity and patience only equaled by Penelope’s firm belief in the return of her husband Odysseus, that over the last 30 years Abe Frajndlich has taken portraits of his famous fellow photographers. A selection of over 100 pictures from the ever growing portrait collection has been published in book form for the first time under the title Penelope’s Hungry Eyes. It features grand old masters of the art and photographic artists, contemporaries of the author and younger masters from the Düsseldorf School.

Abe Frajndlich has succeeded in luring the world’s most famous photographers out from behind their cameras and in front of his. With extraordinary skill, he has trained his lens on people used to hiding their own eyes behind a camera. For each of his portraits (some in color, some black and white) Frajndlich has conceived an individual setup that brings into focus in diverse ways the photographer’s primary organ, namely their eyes, which are as special as the voice of talented singers. Some of the photographers shy away by closing their eyes, wearing a mask or turning away (Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, Thomas Struth or Hans Namuth). Others use props such as glasses, mirrors or magnifying glasses to set their eyes in scene (Bill Brandt, Duane Michals, Andreas Feininger, Lillian Bassman) and still others draw attention to the vulnerability of their eyes using knives and scissors (Imogen Cunningham, Lucas Samaras). Yet many of the subjects respond to the unfamiliar “change of perspective” by looking directly into Frajndlich’s camera (Candida Höfer, Berenice Abbott, Gordon Parks).

Abe Frajndlich has presented a Who’s Who of recent photographic history, enriched with a highly subtle eye for humorous situations. In images and text (the photographer has added a personal note to each portrait) Frajndlich sets out to discover the ever enigmatic relationship between the real person and their own legend.

 

Lucas Samaras
 

Bill Brandt

 

Josef Koudelka

 

Arnold Newman

 

Robert Lebeck

 

Imogen Cunningham

 

Elliott Erwitt

 

William Wegman

 

Marc Riboud

 

Ruth Bernhard

 

Lillian Bassman

 

Louise Dalh-Wolfe

 

Ilse Bing

 

Dennis Hopper

 

David Hockney

 

Richard Avedon

 

Annie Leibovitz

 

Cindy Sherman

 

Andres Serrano

 

Harold Edgerton

 

Horst P. Horst

 

Norman Parkinson

 

Gordon Parks

 

Masahisa Fukase

 

Daidō Moriyama

 

Eikoh Hosoe

Insatiable Photojournalist

Salvador Dalí

 
 

Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock

 
 

Paul Newman

 
 

Marlon Brando

 
 

Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín and Pablo Picasso

 
 

Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter Seeger

 
 

Charles Aznavour

 
 

João Gilberto

 
 

Dalida

 
 

Ruwenzori Mountains

 
 

<Muhammad Ali

 
 

Martin Luther King

 
 

kennedyJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy

 
 

Washington March

 
 

Enrique Meneses (1929 – 2013) was born journalist because of his father. He grew up and studied in France, Portugal and Spain because of the Spanish Civil world. He devour life, looking for being wherever something that could be tell happened, becoming along 30 years the most international Spanish reporter. He worked for agencies such as Fotopress or Delta Press, and media like Paris Match, Time, Life or ABC.

He is the author of iconic photographs of the XXth century that illustrate a time, with portraits of historic characters such as Ché Guevara, Fidel Castro and company when they where trying to defeat that dictator Batista, Salvador Dalí, Marlon Brando, Mel Ferrer, Paul Newman, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Melina Mercouri, Charles Aznavour, João Gilberto o Henry Fonda. As many other historic moments like the fight for civil rights in the USA, the Washington March with Martin Luther King, the tension with the Soviet Union or the Ku Klux Klan.

Something in the Air

…”Lock up the streets and houses
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later…”

Something in the Air
Thunderclap Newman

 
 

Pete Townshend in typically energetic pose, as often he was, mid-air…playing a Gibson

 
 

In 1969, Pete Townshend, The Who‘s guitarist, was the catalyst behind the formation of Thunderclap Newman. The concept was to create a band to perform songs written by chauffeur, drummer and singer Speedy Keen, who had written Armenia City in the Sky, the first track on The Who Sell Out. Townshend recruited jazz pianist Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman (a friend from art college), and 15-year-old Glaswegian guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, who subsequently played lead guitar in Paul McCartney‘s Wings from 1974 to 1977 and died of a heroin overdose in 1979 aged just 26. Keen played the drums and sang the lead. Something in the Air was Thunderclap Newman’s one-hit wonder.

 
 

The Face of Legends

 “There are very few people that have escaped my eye. It was only when I finished my career did I realize what I’d done. I’ve done the best people ever. And there will never be people to match them. Ever.”

Terry O’Neill

 
 

Self-portrait

 
 

Terry O’Neill began his career working in a photographic unit for an airline at London’s Heathrow Airport. During this time, he photographed a sleeping figure in a waiting area whom, by happenstance, was revealed to be Britain’s Home Secretary. O’Neill thereafter found further employment on Fleet Street with The Daily Sketch in 1959. His first professional job was photographing Laurence Olivier.

 
 

Laurence Olivier, Back Stage, London, 1962

 
 

His reputation grew during the 1960s. In addition to photographing the decade’s show-business elite such as Judy Garland, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, he also photographed members of the British Royal Family and prominent politicians, showing a more natural and human side to these subjects than had usually been portrayed before. O’Neill had a longtime relationship with Faye Dunaway. They were married from 1983 until 1986.

 
 

Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli, 1963

 
 

beatles_abbey_rdTerry O’Neill rose to fame in the 1960’s in London, where he snapped this photo of the Beatles at Abbey Road, during the year they released their three classic albums, Please, Please… Me, Introducing the Beatles and With the Beatles. This image hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London

 
 

The Rolling Stones outside St. George’s Church in Hanover Square, London, 17th January 1964

 
 

“Because I used to be a jazz musician, people at the paper asked me, ‘You know about music, who’s going to be the next pop group?’ I said, ‘I’ve been watching a group called The Rolling Stones. They’re a blues group but they’re good’. I went to photograph them and they [the newspaper editors] were horrified. They thought they looked like five prehistoric monsters. They said, ‘There’s got to be some good-looking ones!’”

 
 

This stunning portrait of Marianne Faithful was taken the year she was discovered at a Rolling Stones record release party by manager Andrew Loog Oldham

 
 

a_hepburn_poolActress Audrey Hepburn, swimming in the South of France during the filming of Two For The Road (Stanley Donen, 1967)

 
 

Frank Sinatra arrives at Miami beach with his entourage (including his stand-in, dressed in an identical suit and less well-dressed beefy minders) while filming Lady In Cement  (Gordon Douglas, 1968)

 
 

American actor Steve McQueen looking thoughtful in his Hollywood office, 1968

 
 

Scottish actor Sean Connery and French actress Brigitte Bardot meet for the first time in Deauville, before the filming of Shalako (Edward Dmytryk, 1968)

 
 

French actress and sex symbol Brigitte Bardot on the set of The Ballad Of Frenchie King (Christian-Jaque, 1971), a comedy western, filmed in Almeria, Spain

 
 

Rod Stewart, Windsor, 1971

 
 

Actor Paul Newman resting his head on an actress Ava Gardner during a break from filming John Huston’s 1972 comedy western The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

 
 

Director John Huston and Ava Gardner, 1972

 
 

elton_dodger_stadium_batting_stanceelton_john_backbendEnglish pop star and pianist Elton John performs at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, October 1975

 
 

Singer David Bowie sharing a cigarette with actress Elizabeth Taylor in Beverly Hills, 1975. It was the first occasion that the pair had met

 
 

Singer Bruce Springsteen walking down Sunset Strip with his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, 1975

 
 

German actress Marlene Dietrich walking on stage for a curtain call, 1975

 
 

Actress Faye Dunaway resting by the Beverly Hills Hotel swimming pool the morning after she recieved the 1976 Best Actress Academy Award. There are newspapers on the floor and her Oscar is on the table, 29th March 1977

 
 

Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin outside the famous Paris cafe, Aux Deux Magots. The pair have collaborated on more than 30 albums over a 40 year partnership, 1980

 
 

Anjelica Huston, promotional picture for Witches (Nicholas Roeg, 1990), a fantasy film based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl

 
 

British actor and musician Sting, lead singer and bassist with pop group The Police, 1985

 
 

Amy Winehouse

 
 

“I was working on a present for Nelson Mandela, when he came here for his 90th birthday and there was a concert for him in Hyde Park. Amy was due to sing but she was in hospital. She actually got out of bed to come and perform. I only took two frames but I’m so glad I did because she was a really talented lady.”

 
 

More Terry O’Neill photographs:

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After a Photograph

Joan Collins

 
 

Truman Capote

 
 

Anjelica Huston

 
 

Michael Jackson

 
 

Eddie Sedwick

 
 

Madonna

 
 

“Divine”

 
 

Cher

 
 

Grace Jones

 
 

Miguel Bosé

 
 

Isabella Rossellini

 
 

Maria Schiano

 
 

Debbie Harry

 
 

Diane von Fürstenberg

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

Mick Jagger

 
 

For 15 years, beginning in 1972, Richard Bernstein’s signature artwork graced the monthly covers of Interview magazine, that seminal celebrity chronicle of the social, fashion and art crowd that had met in Andy Warhol’s Factory and the back room of Max’s Kansas City in the 60′s and catalyzed in the sybaritic heat of Studio 54 in the late 70′s.

Using an airbrush, pencil and pastel on photographic portraits, Bernstein made the up-and-coming celebrities of the era-Sylvester Stallone, Calvin Klein, Madonna, even wholesome Mary Tyler Moore-look as sleek and sexy as our nostalgized memories of that era. “Things are stronger, faster and further,” Paloma Picasso wrote of Bernstein’s oeuvre in a published collection of his work, Megastar . “Superstars became Megastars.”

But though Bernstein’s work helped put many a celebrity into the hot zone, he never seemed to be able to make the same conversion in terms of his own career. “I never felt that Richard got the full recognition for his contribution to the art world,” said Steve Newman, director of still photography at 20th Century Fox studios. “He never got the representation or put himself out there enough to earn the kind of reputation that other contemporaries of his did. I still think it’s a great shame.”

Some who knew Bernstein said he never broke out because his work, which was clearly influenced by Warhol’s art, was too often confused with the Pope of Pop’s work, and that Warhol, who enjoyed autographing the covers of fans’ copies of Interview , didn’t work too hard to disabuse them of that notion.

Other friends said that Bernstein was too nice and not ambitious enough, and that he was often taken advantage of by those who were in a position to help him.

With his dark, wavy hair, good looks and unfussy fashion sense-black jeans, leather jackets-Bernstein attracted members of both sexes, and though he was gay, he had at least one significant relationship with a woman, the actress and photographer Berry Berenson.

On Oct. 18, Bernstein’s body was found on the other side of that door, in his high-ceilinged studio apartment that once was part of the Chelsea Hotel’s grand ballroom. According to friends, a note found in his apartment that said simply “Do not resuscitate” left some with the suspicion that he had taken his own life.