Brief comparison of Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock, and their contrasting body of work

By | June 10, 2008

Compare and contrast bodies of work by 2 artists you have studied. In your discussion address the significance of intentions to their practice.


Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol were American based artists during the same period; the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Almost every aspect of their art is antonymous and extremely different, from their art practice, to the meaning they constructed in their works, to the audience and world they reflected.

Jackson Pollock wasn an Abstract Expressionist who used the Action Painting style, as opposed to the Colour Field Painting style. He was active in the 1940s and 1950s, joining a wealth of artists moving to the newly established art capital of the world.

Pollock’s art practice consisted of lots of physical exertion; gestural movements of the wrist, elbow and shoulder that created a rhythmic sense of pattern. As is evident in his most famous work Blue Poles (1952). To create a massive work like Blue Poles his method included laying the large canvas on the floor, stretching it out, and pinning it down. He was then able to move around all four sides of the canvas. Using this method he felt importantly more ‘apart’ of his work, thus facilitating the intentionally expressive and highly personal purpose of the work.

Pollock didn’t use a brush, instead he used foreign implements (sticks, syringes, trowels) and added foreign materials (such as nails, broken glass and sand). Pollock preferred to use a stick to best exploit the ‘drip’ technique or effect he wanted to create. This collection of abstract tools added to his intensely expressive practice.

The artworks he created were unique but so personal that the audience were detached and the meaning of the works were seemingly unrecognizable. The public mostly reacted with distaste, hence Pollock’s artworks were largely unpopular amongst the general public.

Pollock’s deeply expressive work contrasts greatly with the body of work of Andy Warhol. Warhol’s artworks were mostly produced using the silk-screen printing. He employed several assistants to help him create his numerous works at the pace he desired. Thus originality is questionable in Warhol’s works works, where the process was, in its machine-like and impersonal manner, reflecting the mass-production of the consumer world. The process is vital and a personal journey for Pollock, yet for Warhol it was just seemingly a chore required to create the end product. He changed the accepted view of what an art work should be.

Warhol’s works generally consisted of flat areas of colour, very little tone or texture and bold outlines and bright colours. Pollock’s works were composed of an abundance of texture which reflects the great difference to Warhol and his flat images.

The subject matter of Warhol’s works were generally a consumer product, even the face of a celebrity was reproduced like another mass-produced image. thus these subjects that were so common in pop culture (such as Green Coca-Cola Bottles;1962 and Campbell Soup Can;1961-62) provided images readily identifyable to the audience. Hence Pop Art and its artists were popular due to this familiarity and Andy Warhol himself achieved the level of stardom he often portrayed in some of his works(such as Marilyn,1964).

Such familiarity meant that these works by Warhol were tangible. The public could understand them, or at least admire their basic aesthetic value. The emotional intangability of Pollock’s works contrast greatly with Warhol’s works. The public could also enjoy the rumour behind the works, like Brillo Soap Box (1970).

The two artists were almost completely divergent to each other. However it must be noted that they both used art to portray something with a personal connection; as Warhol was a huge fan of celebrities and that was one of his main subjects. Warhol was a reaction against Pollock.

Where Pollock’s work was firmly embedded in the subjective frame and the structural frame, Warhol’s works were usually in the cutlural frame and the structural frame.

Pollock’s works refer to him and his emotion, whereas Warhol’s works refer to the complete opposite the main-stream in an emotionless and apathetic way. Although some images such as the electric chair conjure emotive images.

Pollock and Warhol have both been noted as being influential artists of the 20th century, particularly Warhol as the second most influential artist of the twentieth century (behind the Cubist Picasso), and their contrasting bodies of works are the perfect case study on how art can react against art and how art progresses as a result of this counteraction.

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