McMullen Museum of Art Boston College



CHESTNUT HILL, MA (9-1-07) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College presents a groundbreaking exhibition, Pollock Matters, on view September 1 through December 9, 2007. It explores, for the first time, the personal and artistic relationship between famed American Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock and noted Swiss-born photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter.

Pollock Matters reveals the aesthetic connections between Pollock and Matter, and the crucial role that Matter’s technical innovations played in helping stimulate Pollock’s radical artistic conception of “energy made visible.”

Guest curated by Ellen G. Landau, Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, in collaboration with Claude Cernuschi, Professor of Art History at Boston College, Pollock Matters has been organized by the McMullen Museum of Art. The exhibition is underwritten by Boston College with major support from William and Katherine McLaughlin and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum.

"Boston College is uniquely suited to present this scholarly exhibition, which draws on the resources of our University as well as scholars from other institutions," according to McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. "We view the artistic relationship between Pollock and Matter as an important interdisciplinary research project and a significant teaching opportunity."

This exhibition also debuts to the public more than 20 recently discovered experimental works found in 2002 by Matter's son in a storage facility belonging to his late father. The paintings—although identified as "Jackson experimental works" by an inscription in Herbert Matter's hand—have been the subject of controversy, scientific study and scholarly analysis, and have generated significant media attention.

[MEDIA NOTE: Netzer is available to answer media queries about the exhibition upon its opening on September 1. For more details: Jpg images available upon request from the Museum: email Naomi Blumberg at]

" Part of the McMullen exhibition is devoted to 'the state of the question' of the recently discovered paintings; it brings together and presents to the public the known evidence concerning the attribution of the newly discovered works," Netzer says. "We hope that the exhibition encourages dialogue and further research by art historians and scientists who will now recognize Matter’s artistic impact on Pollock and view the mysterious suite of works found in his estate for the first time."

Netzer describes the exhibition as "a fresh examination of Jackson Pollock. The controversial, recently discovered paintings have provided a catalyst for new research on his artistic and philosophical sources in connection with his already known body of work. In both the exhibition and a diverse group of catalogue essays, we present this emerging scholarship—the work of humanists and scientists at our institution and others, including data of analyses of paints on the disputed works and discussion of scale as well as the role of fingerprint and fractal analysis in determining Pollock authenticity."

According to Netzer, in preparing for this exhibition, the scholars involved discovered new art by all four protagonists: Pollock and Matter, and their wives, painters Lee Krasner and Mercedes Matter.

"These kinds of discoveries are products—some might more accurately be categorized as by-products—of the scholarly process, and the McMullen Museum is pleased to present this new material to the public," she adds.

" In addition to presenting groundbreaking research on the artistic relationship among the four artists, Pollock Matters is an interdisciplinary attempt to examine the intellectual problems posed by the newly discovered paintings. The results of the latter research, bringing new approaches to bear on Pollock's work, are laid out in the accompanying catalogue. The evidence—which points in different directions—leaves researchers with a conundrum, a mystery that may or may not be solved with further research."

Pollock Matters comprises more than 170 works, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, works on paper and other documentation—such as previously unseen photographs and letters. It compares Matter's experimental abstract photos with known works by Pollock, and highlights their significant stylistic, technical and thematic connections.

Pollock Matters is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue published by the McMullen Museum. It includes essays by Landau, as well as by Cernuschi and Boston College physicist Andrzej Herczynski, who have collaborated on the role of scale in Jackson Pollock's working process and on the issues raised by the discovery of fractal patterns in Pollock's work. The full list of catalogue essays and contributors includes:

Introduction Claude Cernuschi, Professor of Art History, Boston College, and Ellen G. Landau, Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Case Western Reserve University

Action/Re-Action: The Artistic Friendship of Herbert Matter and Jackson Pollock Ellen G. Landau

Jackson Pollock’s Vitalism: Herbert Matter and the Vitalist Tradition Jonathan D. Katz, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Fellow

Cutting Pollock Down to Size: The Boundaries of the Poured Technique Claude Cernuschi and Andrzej Herczynski, Boston College physicist

Abstract Expressionism and Fractal Geometry Claude Cernuschi, Andrzej Herczynski and David Martin, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Boston College

Scientific Examination of the Paint on Nine Matter Paintings Richard Newman, head of Scientific Research at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Michele Derrick, conservation scientist, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Analyzing Jackson Pollock: Scientific Methods and the Study of the Matter Paintings Nicholas Eastaugh, Pigmentum Project, Oxford University

What It Says on the Tin: A Preliminary Study of the Set of Paint Cans and the Floor in the Pollock-Krasner Studio Nicholas Eastaugh and Bhavini Gorsia, forensic scientist, Kings College, London

Fingerprinting Jackson Pollock? Peter Paul Biro, forensic scientist

Appendix I: Notes on Conservation of the Matter Paintings

Appendix II: Chronology of the Relationship of the Matters and Pollocks

Public Opening Celebration

Sunday, September 2 at 8 p.m. On Sunday, September 2, the public is invited to join Boston College community members at an opening celebration, which is free of charge and will be held at the Museum from 8-10:30 p.m. It will include exhibition viewing, a dessert reception and music by the popular campus jazz band BC bOp! The public event will be followed, on September 7, by a black-tie celebration for invited guests. [NOTE: To arrange attendance at the September 2 event, call 617-552-8587 or email].

McMullen Museum of Art

The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of New England as well as the national and the international community. The Museum displays its notable permanent collection and mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs. The 10th anniversary of the formal reopening of the Museum was marked in 2003-04.

The McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 by the late Boston College benefactor, trustee and art collector John J. McMullen.

McMullen Museum Hours and Tours

Admission to the McMullen Museum is free; it is handicapped accessible and open to the public. The Museum is located in Devlin Hall on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus, at 140 Commonwealth Avenue. During this exhibition, hours are: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Closed on the following dates: September 3, October 8 and November 22 and 23. No parking on the following Saturdays: September 1, 8, 22, 29; October 6; November 3 and 24.

Exhibition tours will be given every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. starting on September 23. Free group tours arranged upon request; call (617) 552-8587. For directions, parking and information, visit or call (617) 552-8100.