In the present work, Pollock has inverted the traditional figure ground relationship, applying white paint to a black ground. Abstract in its calligraphic mesh, three merely discernible figures nevertheless emerge from what at first glance appears a tangle of white paint. The right hand figure could be one or two that are joined together; this shape is not as legible as the more anthropomorphic figure on the left, who could be interpreted as dashing off the edge of the painting. What is most striking about this painting, however, is how the figures, despite the frenzy of their composition, adhere to an invisible perimeter delineating their bodies. The gestural painting zig zags to build up form, yet the frenetic flicks and flings of paint stay within a circumscribing perimeter, the result of Pollock placing a stencil on the paper to control the flow of paint. As Michael Leja notes, “Regular and irregular, erratic gestures are controlled enough to serve the production of distinct, legible figures. The constitution of figures from drawn and patterned marks is, consequently, the principal subject of this work, although the problem of relating figure to ground has not been abandoned. The absence of an outline bounding the figures keeps the separation between figure and ground from completeness; the black ground permeates the interior of the bodies, anchoring them and subverting their autonomy. Still, the fact that line in this picture works exclusively to constitute figures and not produce simultaneously an encompassing field marks another variation in Pollock’s handling of figure- field relations.” (Michael Leja, Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s, New Haven and London, 1993, p. 296)
The implied stenciling evident in the clean edges of Triad’s figures relates the present work to a series of collage experiments Pollock pursued in 1948, in which he cut out figurative forms from a ground of poured painting, collaging them atop new works, a unique process that allowed Pollock to negotiate figure-field relationships in two distinct iterations. The sense of a cut out or stencil is unavoidable in Triad, the white paint reaching to but not past the unseen edges of a template, commingling with the black ground. Triad also embodies the way in which Pollock conflated drawing and painting, freeing line to become painterly in addition to describing figures, a crowning achievement he had reached in his practice with the advent of the pouring method. Bernice Rose notes that what came to separate Pollock’s painting and drawing, however superficially, was “the degree to which line describes figures,” a technique that is beautifully crystallized in the surface of Triad. (Bernice Rose, Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper, New York, 1969, p. 10) Pollock never distinguished between his drawings and paintings; rather, he valued both as direct and authentic methods of expressing his innermost nature, energy, and drive in his vital and iconic gesture.
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