“Painting as Ecstasy”
The Press on Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” at the
Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

With the exhibition “Jackson Pollock’s 'Mural': Energy Made Visible” the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle sheds light on the genesis of this masterpiece and its influence on American painting. When Pollock’s work was shown for the first time in 1943 it thrilled the public, and still today art critics are fascinated by it.
For Die Zeit, Jackson Pollock’s Mural is one of the “most important modern American works.” And when this masterpiece takes a trip to Berlin, even the hanging of the monumental canvas is worth a report. In an article for Welt am Sonntag, Ina Lockhart discusses how the 15-square-meter painting was installed at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle. “Later, visitors to the exhibition won’t find any evidence of how difficult it was to take the work with its swirls of paint out of the transport crate and hang it. The massive action painting weighs 200 kilograms. Those who know how easily canvases laden with heavy paint can flap and break will understand how precise the work was.” The sheer size of the painting posed a challenge its creator, reports BZ. “To paint it, Jackson Pollock had to tear down a wall of his studio.” It was worth the effort. Mural writes Neues Deutschland, “amounted to a sensation.”

Nicola Kuhn of Tagesspiegel characterized Pollock’s work, which was commissioned by collector and patron Peggy Guggenheim, as a “masterpiece of excess.” “The unbridled wildness of the painting, the ecstatic energy during the process of creation, is still astonishing decades after it was painted. (…) What Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was for the first half of the twentieth century Mural is for the second: a caesura. Painting was different afterwards, it was ecstasy.” For Ingeborg Ruthe, who reports for Frankfurter Rundschau and Berliner Zeitung, “the painting embodies a turn away from tradition. It marked the birth of Abstract Expressionism. In Mural, Pollock had semi-abstract figures, things that look like demons, wisps, birds’ heads, snake bodies, and bizarre eye growths dance and spin, almost violently, as though spurred on by a jazz band playing wildly.” The link between Pollocks work and swing and bebop is the subject of Jan Kedve’s piece in Süddeutsche Zeitung, which apart from the show at the KunstHalle also reviews the Archibald Motley retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York and  I Got Rhythm at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, two exhibitions focusing the influence of jazz on the visual arts. In the view of Marie Kaiser, who discusses the most exciting exhibitions in Berlin each week in her column  “Kunststück” for Radio Eins, the painting is akin to a visual “music in which the colors hop rhythmically over the giant canvas.”

Journalists were just as interested in the painting’s visit to the KunstHalle as in its art-historical importance. rbb sent a camera team to the venue and reported on the show in several programs, and a wide range of media, including Stern, Bild, Fokus, tip, Westfälische Nachrichten, N24, Portal Kunstgeschichte, kulturradio, Artnet, and Kunstmarkt.com, reported on the exhibition.. For Art, “Jackson Pollock’s 'Mural': Energy Made Visible” was among the “most compelling exhibitions of the week,” and Kulturnews already called it one of the “best exhibitions of 2016” so early in the year.  
 
“Pollock fans will flock to the art museum on Unter den Linden as though on a pilgrimage,” writes Gabriela Walde in Berliner Morgenpost. “Because Mural, as we quickly understand in this clever, manageable exhibition, is a work directly related to Abstract Expressionist drip paintings.” Pollock founded Abstract Expressionism “with this monumental, spectacular, influential composition,” writes Michael Nungesser in Kunstforum. “Which explains the monographic exhibition, so to speak, with Mural as the iconic center.”

In Kunstzeitung, Bernhard Schulz comes to the following conclusion: “In this work, Pollock manages for the first time to completely liberate forms and colors, which spread out over the canvas in endless repetition: the birth of the all-over.” Schulz is particularly thrilled by the fact that the exhibition not only shows paintings and drawings, but also photographs that influenced Pollock. Brigitte Werneburg from taz has a similar view. In her opinion, Mural heralds “the beginning of American Abstract Expressionism (…) Of particular interest is the impact of contemporary photography on Jackson Pollock, who sought to create a kind of modern painting in which the dynamics and pace of the modern world/perception are adequately expressed.”