Monday, July 31, 2017

Pollock-Krasner House and Studio

This past weekend a friend rented a car and a bunch of us went up to the Hamptons. It was to see an art show but we made a day of it. After driving for hours, passing Trump’s motorcade on the LIE (Long Island Expressway) (gasp I know), we made it to this hamlet of wealth with some time to spare. With this time we went to the beach but first we went to the Pollock-Krasner House and Studio in Springs, just at the edge of East Hampton.

A friend of mine has relatives who live around the corner from this house but it was my first time going inside of it. It is a small home, a barn/studio, and a lawn that faces a small lake. It is very discreet and it only had a few visitors when we arrived.

There is a pleasant women sitting at a desk when you enter (via the back door), and it turns out she is the director of the space. It costs $5 for the tour (what a bargain) and you can get an audio guide. I got it but then I gave it back because I remembered I hated those things.

The house was where Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock lived and worked. It was their home and it still feels like a home. There is an inhabited feeling that makes poking through others’ possessions exciting yet tinged with revere. There are two floors in the house. On the first there was a show of sorts, photographs of the clique of that day, de Kooning, Castelli, the whole New York School Expressionist gang. That makes sense to have on display, I mean isn’t the whole point of this place to remind you of the history it was a part of?

Upstairs there are rooms, bedrooms, bathroom and what was once Krasner’s studio. They are charmingly staged but not too overhanded like they did over at Donald Judd’s place in Soho. There is a distinct feeling of “Lee” permeating throughout the house. The curtains, the soap by the sink, the peacock feathers in a vase. They reveal an aesthetic of living that feels tender and actual.

Then there is the barn where Pollock became the fame he is now recognized as. You have to wear booties and there is ‘the floor’ the one with the splatters that reveal the vastness of the universe/his genius. On the walls there are photos and text showing the timeline of his career as well as his coterie. It is a small studio in a way but it is of course massive in Pollock’s storyline.

The studio is probably why most people make it out to Springs and why they have made it a historical site but I want to get back to the house.

Krasner is of course significant as an artist but the truth is, she will always be the moon to Pollock’s sun. Even in the cemetery, not too far away where they are both buried, she is a smaller boulder in front of Pollock’s much larger one. This is the way things were, are and will remain but this house really makes you understand the complexity of the roles Krasner and Pollock played.

The home, the domestic, is Krasner’s while the studio, the creative center, is Pollock’s. But the thing is, the house is far more interesting and creative. There is a real energy to the rooms and a presence felt. The era they lived together in that house was different. The roles of wife/husband, man/woman were much more striated but we luckily have the pleasure of hindsight. Even though the ‘legacies’ of both are preserved in this skewed way, with our contemporary eyes we can see through the lines of this tale.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Pollock, although I totally agree and understand why he is in the pantheon of great American artists. I’m also not that into Krasner’s work, I know that is shunned to say but I really don’t think people should overcompensate her work because she was overshadowed and so ill treated by Pollock/history.

We think about these artists, these histories, in abstract and personified ways but we forget that they were just people. They lived, they woke up, they made coffee, walked barefoot in the grass and had friends over for drinks and conversation. This house serves multiple functions but for me it was so nice to be reminded that the act of living has such value. They lived, they made art, and lucky for them, they will be remembered more then most of us.

I encourage people to visit this place and also to go to Green River Cemetery where they, along with many of their friends, are buried. I also suggest purchasing a cutting of Lee’s own spider plant. It doubly reminds you that things keep living, quietly and constantly.