Book review: Painting beyond Pollock

Morgan Falconer’s new work Painting Beyond Pollock is a sensitive exploration of the medium. Beginning with abstract expressionism, and ending with the ‘Pop Romantics’ – the latter encompassing post-1990s figurative painters such as Peter Doig and Elizabeth Peyton – it is a more delicate and thoughtful book than the rather bold title suggests.

Indeed, Falconer points to the difficulty of spotting a suitable ‘moment’ to begin any history. The book takes as its central premise the feeling of rupture Pollock’s work created in the 1950s, but nonetheless contextualises it within its broader period, thus avoiding any sort of heroic or narrowly individualistic account. Likewise, there is an acknowledgement of race and gender issues: this is a book largely about white male artists, but it is self-aware enough to convincingly explain its reasons for being so.

Both in terms of its visual impact and in Falconer’s writing, Painting Beyond Pollock is clear, accessible and stimulating. Early on, Falconer questions whether painters’ devotion to the medium – its history and language – has lessened over the years. If so, this work surely functions as an effective call to arms.

Originally written for Aesthetica.

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