October 25, 2008

Pollock inspired by shamanism

Jackson Pollock and the Native American unconsciousUntil now, Pollock’s fascination with Amerindian art and rituals and their influence on his work has not been studied seriously. But this has changed with the exhibition "Pollock and Shamanism" at the Pinacothèque de Paris.

Art historian Stephen Polcari is the exhibition's curator. He says that Pollock, like the Surrealists, was known to be keenly interested in anything related to the unconscious. He believed the origins of art stemmed from the unconscious.

Polcari explains that during the 1930s and 1940s, the unconscious was considered a thinking process that involved a "primitive" reflex that could still be found in non-western peoples.

"Shamanism in American Indian culture is thought to be closer to the unconscious. It was a very big idea at the time", he says. "If you want to do the unconscious, you do primitive. And so Pollock did a lot of quote, unquote, 'primitive', using Shamanism to address the idea of the unconscious."
Comment:  Actually, Pollock's interest in Indians goes much deeper than this article indicates. See Indians Inspired Pollock for details.

Below:  "Birth" and an untitled painting in the equine series--by Jackson Pollock.


gaZelbe said...

"Shamanism" is one of those words that seems like its only purpose is to elevate the major "world" religions above those practiced by smaller groups of people, and perhaps more accurately those religions which are newer to Europeans.

Specifically in relation to NA religions and commonly the NAC, I've never seen a definition of "shamanism" that didn't also perfectly describe Christianity.

"Shamanism" seems like a word that deserves imminent obsolescence.

Genevieve Lopez said...

I don't know about imminent obsolescence; making the terminology surrounding it more specific seems more helpful. I say this because when I lived in WI, there was a large Hmong population, and a significant number of them practiced Hmong shamanism instead of, say, Christianity. There's a very large difference between the belief systems and practices of the two religions, and I actually knew a high-school girl who was a shaman (this isn't an "earned" or hereditary position, or something to be trained to do; one has to have certain abilities that one could classify as "psychic") while I lived in the area.

The correlation between "shamanism"/"shaman"/et al. and the "primitive", racial/ethnic minorities/nonwestern thinking/"Other", and the once (still?) popular notion of identifying all things associated with "primitive"-ness as an exotic connection to the collective unconscious/id (depending on preference for Jungian or Freudian psychology) by whites isn't and really never was based in reality. Not to mention that the term "shaman" has become such a catchall term for a near-magical person, the same as Wise/Village Elder, Medicine Man, etc., that whenever it comes up, for the most part, the word(s) is/are devoid of their original meaning(s).

dmarks said...

It does tend to oversimplify things and gloss over the differences in very different believe systems, doesn't it?