Archive for category Subject: Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner: Living Colour || ed Eleanor Nairne

Lee Krasner is this year’s rediscovery. Alongside a major European retrospective exhibition and Gail Levin’s biography is this new monograph that provides an account and chronology of Krasner’s working life as well as illustrating a thoroughly representative selection of her work.

That Krasner’s reputation has been largely obscured by the superstar nature of her husband, Jackson Pollock, is now a matter of record. As an aside to this, in On Chapel Sands, her memoir of her mother, Betty, Laura Cumming recounts her saying, of her marriage to another artist, that there is only room for one painter in a family. It seems that Betty willingly turned her creative endeavour to weaving. We can also look at Rose Hilton as an example of another partner whose work was, in this case, deliberately suppressed by a husband. Yes, it’s usually the men who prevail. Maybe Elizabeth (Betty) Cumming was right and artistic differences and jealousies do inevitably affect both creativity and a relationship.

If Lee Krasner didn’t get the appreciation she deserved during her lifetime, her reputation is being salvaged by posterity, which can examine her work through the lens of history. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing. Rather than being the Wunderkind that Pollock was lauded as during his life, Krasner can be seen as an artist both of her own time and that of the decades that have followed. It may be unfair, but it provides a different and, maybe, ultimately more subtle analysis: one with perspective.

If you want a one-volume guide to Lee Krasner’s work, this is it. True, such things may not be thick on the ground but, if you had to sketch out what you wanted from such a book, the format you have here would pretty much match it. The quality of the illustrations is generally excellent and, if the odd rather elderly colour transparency creeps in, that’s probably inevitable – better to have the picture than lose it because it’s not the sharpest slide in the tray.

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Lee Krasner: a biography || Gail Levin

I’m always a little (well, more than a little) doubtful when someone is described as “better known as the wife of”, but the fact is that Lee Krasner was married to Jackson Pollock. It’s a sad fact that married female artists tend to be overshadowed by their spouses but, if you’re the other half of a major figure, maybe that’s inevitable. Pollock would probably overshadow anyone.

Having got that off my chest, let’s have a look at Lee Krasner in her own right. This is, the blurb announces, the first full-length account of her colourful life, going on the mention her “extrordinary story”. Let’s now bring that and my first paragraph together: “I was in on the formation of what all the history books now write about the abstract expressionists. I was in the WPA, part of the New York School, I knew Gorky, Hoffmann, de Kooning, Clement Greenberg before Jackson did and in fact I introduced him to them. But there was never any mention of me in the history books, like I was never there”, Krasner remarked rather acidly in 1973. Like I said, men obscure women and the kick-starters behind big figures sometimes get punted into the touchline of history.

So, how does this resurrect a forgotten – ignored, even – figure? Gail Levin is careful to document Krasner’s life in full and also to provide a proper critical appreciation of her work. The fact is she could, and should, have been one of the big names of Abstract Expressionism. It’s not so much that she wasn’t written into history as that she was actively written out of it. No-one puts Pollock in a corner.

Lee Krasner has for a long time been poorly served. She deserved better and she has it here.

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