Sculptures by Jackson Pollock have recently been on show in New York. Some contain clear correspondences with the webs of his paintings but it is apparent that the were at best tentative moves toward sculpture, rather than fully-fledged sculptures. Abstract Expressionism had a large impact on British abstract sculpture of the sixties and seventies, partly through the scale, directness and abstraction of the painters, and partly through the work of David Smith, particularly as transmitted through Anthony Caro. Toward the end of his life John Panting (1940-1974) produced a number of sculptures, which one critic dubbed ‘bird’s nests’, that are perhaps one of the most direct translations of Pollock’s paintings in sculpture, and certainly go beyond Pollock’s own efforts. However we should be careful about drawing connections too easily, something which Pollock’s art has proved very susceptible to, with it now widely seen as a prototype of performance rather than as a contribution to painting. One reviewer of Panting’s memorial exhibition noticed the similarity between Pollock’s paintings and the ‘bird’s nests’, but laid the stress on a crucial difference: ‘with Pollock the drip-stick does not stop, […] paint lands where the gesture of the whole man, his body, sends it through space. Panting is no painter. He builds towers, up from the floor, on as few points as possible, extending up and out.’
John Panting: Sculpture by Sam Cornish is the first full-length monograph on Panting, published by Sansom & Co. An exhibition of Panting’s sculpture accompanies the publication and is on at Poussin Gallery from the 5th to 27th of October. More information here.