Primary Source February 2012
From the Acting Director

January 28, 2012 marked the centennial of Jackson Pollock's birth. To underscore this special occasion, the Archives opened "Memories Arrested in Space, a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Archives of American Art" at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in the Smithsonian's Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. Guest curated by Helen A. Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, the exhibition will remain on view through May 15.


The exhibition, its title taken from Pollock's own poetic statement about his work, explores his career through the lens of his personal papers. Pollock's singular history is richly documented in the Archives of American Art, principally in the papers donated by Lee Krasner (1908 - 1984), but also in those of his eldest brother Charles (1902 - 1988) and of his friends and associates. Born in Wyoming and raised in Arizona and California, Pollock moved to New York City in 1930. Working through a variety of influences, from Regionalism and Surrealism to Native American art, he arrived at a unique method that he called "direct painting," the visual equivalent of emotions and sensations. The technique was also a channel for positive energy and an antidote to Pollock's own internal conflicts.


Although Pollock's career was short - a mere 12 years between his first solo exhibition and his last - he decisively shaped the direction of painting after World War II. Both his art and his personality fulfilled the needs of an era that questioned traditional cultural values and hailed individual freedom of expression. We hope that you will have a chance to visit this unique exhibition.


Liza Kirwin

Acting Director

Essay Prize
CLIR Grant
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Graduate Research Essay Prize
Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder at work, ca. 1960 / unidentified photographer. Alexander Calder papers.

The Archives is accepting submissions for the Archives of American Art Graduate Research Essay Prize to be given to compelling original research using the resources of the Archives of American Art as primary evidence. The competition is open to anyone currently enrolled in a graduate program in Art History, Visual Culture, American Studies, or related fields. The winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000, publication of the essay on our website, and a one year's free subscription to the Archives of American Art Journal. Submissions must be received by April 15, 2012.


To learn more visit:


Archives Receives Major Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources

The Archives of American Art was awarded $222,700 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation via the Council on Library and Information Resources "Hidden Collections" grant program for "Uncovering Hidden Audiovisual Media Documenting Postmodern Art." 


This three-year project will produce detailed finding aids for 12 archival collections that are rich in rare audiovisual materials that document a period of contemporary American art when ephemeral and dynamic new visual art forms were emerging across the country. These films, video and sound recordings were created as a record of art, artists, exhibitions and events. Some are them are artworks in and of themselves - sound art, video art, outtakes and elements of multimedia productions. In some instances, performance, documentation and video art are intertwined in one recording. The new finding aids will be made available on the Archives' website, dramatically increasing access to information about these hidden resources. Funds will support an audiovisual archivist, graduate interns and a symposium. 


Among the 12 targeted collections are the papers of painter Eleanor Dickinson, author Jan Butterfield, video artist Paul Ryan and the exhibition records of the Finch College Museum of Art, an early venue for video art. As primary sources, these collections offer unique opportunities for discovery and revelation. They enrich understanding of art-world events and the lives of key participants providing firsthand accounts of seminal moments in American art history. They help people see aspects of contemporary art in new and different ways.

Memories Arrested In Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Archives of American Art

Pollock in southern California, ca. 1927. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, ca. 1905-1984.
At the Archives' Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, DC through May 15.


"Memories Arrested in Space" celebrates Pollock's life (1912-1956) and his enduring legacy through family photographs, correspondence, rare printed material and writings.


Exhibition highlights include letters from his art teachers, Hans Hofmann and Thomas Hart Benton, his fellow artists, including Clyfford Still, and memorable writings by ardent fans and derisive critics. Iconic photographs of Pollock at work in his studio taken by Hans Namuth, and rare snapshots of Pollock hiking with his brothers and relaxing on the beach with Clement Greenberg and Helen Frankenthaler, offer a dynamic impression of Pollock's life and work.


Public Program

Guest curator Helen A. Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, will give a free gallery talk Thursday, March 8, at 2 p.m. in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery.

From Our Blog

When Archives of American Art acting director Liza Kirwin invited me to be the guest curator of a show celebrating Jackson Pollock's centenary, I jumped at the chance to dive into the original documents. The digitized collection is a fantastic resource, but there's nothing like the real thing to take you into the artist's world. One drawback, however: I live on eastern Long Island, and the documents are in Washington,......�


Be the first person to correctly answer the trivia question below and win a copy of Speaking of Art, 1958 - 2008. Send your answer to  


Jackson Pollock holding a can of paint, 1950 / Rudy Burckhardt, photographer. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers.


Which member of the Regionalist Art Movement and "enemy of modernism" was a teacher to Jackson Pollock at the Art Students League and to Dennis Hopper at the Kansas City Art Institute?


Answer to December 2011 Trivia:

Benjamin West first traveled to Italy in 1760 and his experience there dramatically influenced his art which in turn influenced the artists who followed him to Italy, from John Singleton Copley, Thomas Cole, and Hiram Powers to John Singer Sargent, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Maurice Brazil Prendergast.