JACKSON POLLOCK...or Not
Untitled / Oil on Masonite
Everyone dreams of finding a forgotten Michelangelo or Jackson Pollock in an attic. And many, many people say they have.
In 2003, Alex Matter found dozens of paintings on Masonite board in his parents’ metal shed in Wainscot. The paintings were abstract swirls of house paint that seemed to be dripped and thrown—the characteristic style of Jackson Pollock. Matter’s parents were close friends of Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, and were well-known patrons of the arts. The paintings were wrapped in paper that Matter’s father had identified with the word “Pollock.” Needless to say, the Matter paintings have been scrutinized by experts ever since.
In 2005, a visitor dropped off this work at the Islip Art Museum and claimed it was from the Matter’s Wainscot shed. She asked the Museum staff to authenticate it, left the work and never returned.
Since then, the “Lost Pollocks” from Wainscot have undergone rigorous scrutiny and microscopic analysis. The paint was finally identified as a substance that was not available in Pollock’s lifetime. Helen Harrison, the director of the Pollock Krasner House in East Hampton, and an expert on the artist’s work, reviewed our painting and said she thought the work in our possession was one of many forgeries.
If the Wainscot works, and our work, were genuine, they would be priceless. Lawsuits and investigations continue.
What do you think?
Untitled / Color Polaroid / 1986
Vicki Ragan is known for her surreal photographs which fuse reality and dreams into enchanting other-worlds. Unlike traditional film-based photographs, which can be printed in infinite quantities, Untitled is a large format polaroid that cannot be reproduced.
In addition to her photography, Ms. Ragan is an expert on the folk art of Oaxaca in Mexico. She has published three books: Oaxacan Wood Carving: The Magic in the Trees (1993: Chronicle Books), The Edible Alphabet Book (1996: Bulfinch Press), and Oaxacan Ceramics (2000: Chronicle). She lives in West Islip with her family. Her husband, Stephen Barbash, is the son of Lillian Barbash, the founder and long-time director of the Islip Arts Council.
Ragan has exhibited as an artist photographer in major venues around the world. Her work is in permanent collections at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Polaroid Corp's International Art Collection at the Musee de l'Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland. It has also appeared on the covers of Smithsonian Magazine and The British Journal of Photography. She has received numerous public art commissions and has permanent installations in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Adamsville Community Center in Atlanta, and the Island Grove Regional Park Community Building in Greeley, Colorado.
Poster from Exhibition
Larry Rivers is considered the godfather of Pop Art because he was one of the first artists of the 70’s to combine realistic images from the commercial world with the techniques of abstraction and collage. His most famous paintings, such as Washington Crossing the Delaware, are cheeky spoofs of American culture. He often said his goal was to “cross grand art with the absurd.”
Rivers as born in the Bronx in 1928 and was a noted jazz musician who frequently played with Miles Davis. In his later years, he made films and appeared in several movies, including experimental work produced by Andy Warhol’s Factory. He died at his home in Southampton in 2002. His work is in all major museums and in many private collections. His estate is administered through the Larry Rivers Foundation.
Poster from Exhibition
James Rosenquist is one of the leading figures in the Pop Art movement of the 1970’s. He began his career as a sign painter, specializing in large-scale billboards. He adopted the techniques and the language of advertising to fine art, creating work that featured air-brushed and painted images of celebrities, luxury products, fireworks, airplanes and text. His images are colorful and exuberant, capturing the optimistic mood of an era.
He was born in North Dakota in 1933, moved to Manhattan in his late teens, and died there in 2017. He maintained a home on the East End of Long Island. His estate and archives are now administered through the James Rosenquist Foundation.
Angus Challenge / Ink, gouache, collage, mixed media / 1988
David Slater’s idiosyncratic works are an image-packed autobiography of his dreams, memories, encounters with Native American tribes and his peripatetic travels through the United States. Although he received an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and has taught academic art courses at several colleges, he has much in common with unschooled folk artists, including a compulsion to fill every empty space with images and private symbols.
Slater was born in 1940 in Hempstead and grew up in Massapequa. He took his first art class in the Tenth Grade at Massapequa High School. His father suffered in the Great Depression and insisted his son never become an artist. But Slater knew he was born to paint. As a young adult, he hitchhiked to counter-culture encampments of the 60’s and 70’s, and took part in major protests including those at Kent State and Wounded Knee Indian Reservation. In homage to Native American spiritual customs, which he has studied and practiced, he has not cut his hair since 1969.
He continues to create work that cannot be categorized, and has been included in group and solo shows at major museums and galleries. He has lived in Sag Harbor since 1982, and is represented by Peter Marcelle Gallery in Southampton.
Matthew Solomon Recalls Lisa Solomon / Hydrstone, plastic garbage bag, Christmas decorations / 1988
Katie Seiden says simply, “I don’t want people to forget.” In her most well-known body of work, the Recall Series, the artist created sculptures that memorialize the nation’s most sensational crimes, including many that happened on Long Island. Her piece in the Islip Art Museum’s Permanent Collection references the 1987 Christmas Eve murder of Lisa Solomon by her husband, Matthew. The incident made front-page headlines because Matthew Solomon spent three days with police in the hunt for his wife before he was revealed as the murderer. The materials in the sculpture—the garbage bag and Christmas tinsel—refer to the season in which the crime took place and Solomon’s method of disposal.
Seiden’s pieces are constructed of mundane materials that, on second glance, have social and political meaning. A New York Times art critic described her work as “unsettling and ugly, but difficult to ignore.” Seiden is part of a group of artists from Sea Cliff who often work and exhibit together. She was a friend of the renowned artist, Ray Johnson, the father of Mail Art.” She has been featured in more than 100 exhibits on Long Island and the East Coast. Her current body of work focuses on endangered species.
Farm Friends / Monoprint / 1991
Toby Sullivan was a member of a loose-knit group of Long Island artists who lived and practiced in Sea Cliff, an historic village that has a reputation as an artists’ colony. Many residents—all friends of Ms. Sullivan’s—have exhibited at the Islip Art Museum. Born in 1919, she had a long career as an artist and teacher. Her art work was first recognized in 1940, and in successive years she accumulated many awards and participated in many exhibits.
Farm Friends is a complex monoprint and is an example Sullivan’s signature style, which is a fusion of abstraction and folk art. Sullivan died in 2009 at the age of 90.
TOBA PATO TUCKER
Edward Gumbs / Gelatin silver print / 1984
Toba Tucker has spent much of her career photographing Native American tribes throughout the United States. In the early 1980’s, she came to Long Island from her home in California to study the Shinnecock Indian reservation in Southampton at a time when the tribe was aggressively seeking tribal status from the federal government. Her arresting portraits helped persuade the Bureau of Indian Affairs to officially recognize the tribe in 2010.
The Islip Art Museum owns this portrait of a young Edward Gumbs. Now in his 60’s, Gumbs served as one of the Shinnecock tribal elders.
Toba Tucker began her career in the 1970s when she was almost 40 years old. Self-taught, Tucker was inspired to become a full time photographer after she took a workshop with the legendary teacher and photographer, Harold Feinstein. She used a second-hand Hasselblad and became a master printer of black and white silver prints. In 1980, she won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to photograph Native American tribes and explore the relationship between traditional practices and contemporary culture. A large collection of her work is in the Yale University Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.