To make an exciting movie, do you really need much more than an art thief and his capers? With Dripped, animator Léo Verrier sees that can’t-miss premise and raises it in an exploration of art history. In its 1940s New York City setting, painting-swiping protagonist Jack lives not just to make world-renowned canvasses his own, but a part of him. When he gets these works of art back to his apartment, he doesn’t even consider selling them; instead, he chews and swallows them, thus enabling him to assume in body the forms and colors famously expressed in paint on their surfaces. We are what we eat, and Jack eats art, but even becoming the art of others ultimately leaves him unsatisfied. Determined to paint and eat a canvas of his own, he finds his stomach can’t handle his work in progress. Thrown into a bout of frustration, an angered Jack tosses one of his paintings to the ground, randomly splattering it with every color at hand. And thus he discovers, in this animated fantasy, the technique that Jackson Pollock would pioneer in reality.
To see the real artist — one not known for his eating, though his drinking did gain a reputation of its own — in action have a look at Hans Namuth’s 1951 footage of Pollock painting with his signature “drip” method above. To learn more about the how and the why of it, see also the 1987 documentary Portrait of an Artist: Jackson Pollock, which we featured in 2012; and below, see the Museum of Modern Art’s short examination and re-creation of Pollock’s “action painting” technique. Chance may have led him to discover this practice, but it hardly means he gave up control. Filmmaker Stan Brakhage liked to tell the following illustrative story, which came out of hanging out with various artists and composers in Pollock’s studio in the late 40s:
They were, like, commenting, and they used the words “chance operations” — which was no bother to me because I was hearing it regularly from John Cage — and the power and the wonder of it and so forth. This really angered Pollock very deeply and he said, “Don’t give me any of your ‘chance operations.’ ” He said, “You see that doorknob?” and there was a doorknob about fifty feet from where he was sitting that was, in fact, the door that everyone was going to have to exit. Drunk as he was, he just with one swirl of his brush picked up a glob of paint, hurled it, and hit that doorknob smack-on with very little paint over the edges. And then he said, “And that’s the way out.”
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.