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 Jack Henry Pollock  (1930 - 1992)

About: Jack Henry Pollock
 

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada/France      Known for: painting, teaching, art dealer

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jack Henry Pollock, author, painter, art educator and art dealer, was a fixture on the Toronto art scene for over three decades. Pollock was the flamboyant founder and owner of The Pollock Gallery in Toronto.  He was widely reputed to have a skilled eye for identifying talent in young artists and was instrumental in the careers of many notable artists that he represented including David Hockney, Susan Ross, Ken Danby, Norval Morrisseau, Roy Thomas, Catherine Senitt, Charles Pachter, Robert Bateman and Willem de Kooning.

Pollock graduated from the Ontario College of Art *(OCAD) in 1954 and subsequently studied at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art* in London, England. Afterwards, he returned to Canada and was employed as a colour consultant for a paint company.  Pollock's employment was terminated as he had a psychological breakdown, which required hospitalization. It was during his time in the hospital that Pollock experienced the benefits of art therapy, which led him to open the Pollock Gallery in 1960.

In 1962, while teaching art classes in Northern Ontario (funded by the Ontario Government), Pollock met Norval Morrisseau, a local Ojibwa artist. Pollock immediately recognized the artist's genius and arranged for a solo exhibition at his gallery in Toronto. The response was a sold out show and brilliant reviews declaring Morrisseau a "genius." Morrisseau went on to become arguably one of Canada's most important artists.

In 1966, the National Gallery of Canada acquired a print of Pollock's, Remembered Image No.82, for its permanent collection. Pollock had become well respected as an artist despite the overshadowing talent of Morrisseau. Pollock's painting styles were abstract, abstraction* and expressionism*. His later works were highly colorful, simple studies of scenes from his everyday life.

"I'm sure that, if I were to die tomorrow, the single most important thing people would remember me for is, damn it, the discovery of Norval Morrisseau. I'd like to think that I've done other equally important things. However, that's the way it is." Jack Pollock (May 20, 1984)

Although Morrisseau made Pollock famous, the artist proved troublesome at times. In 1973, Pollock found himself accused of theft by an Indian Affairs of Canada employee named Bob Fox who was "managing" Morrisseau on the side while the artist was incarcerated. Morrisseau had instructed Pollock to take several paintings to Toronto to be sold and Fox accused Pollock of stealing said paintings. Pollock was found innocent of the charge and in an unusual occurrence, he was complimented at length in the resulting Judgement issued by the Court.

"He's eccentric, mad, brilliant. He's an extraordinary human being. I love him and I can't stand him. He's caused me more problems that any other single human being on the face of the earth. Every once and a while he hates me, he'd screw me around. But he loves me. There's a bond between us. Amazing." Jack Pollock (May 1, 1984)

Despite his success and Canadian art world celebrity, Pollock admitted to not being a good business minded person. Pollock began having serious health and financial difficulties in the late 1970s. In 1976, after speculating on real estate located around the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and mortgaged to the hilt, the AGO closed for construction and his real estate opportunity evaporated. Under enormous financial pressure, Pollock was admitted under psychiatric care to the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. He recovered after three months and re-opened the Pollock Gallery on Scollard Street where, rather than declare bankruptcy as suggested by friends, he began to repay his debts.

In 1979, with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation personality Lister Sinclair, Pollock had written and published one of Canada's most notable art books: The Art of Norval Morrisseau.

It was sometime around this period when Pollock developed an addiction to cocaine which further exasperated his financial difficulties. Worse still, his relationship with Norval Morrisseau appeared to be undermined by Morrisseau's involvement with alleged mafioso Albert Volpe.

Together with changing economics in the art world and lack of business management skills, the Pollock Gallery closed for business in December, 1981. In 1982, Pollock underwent heart surgery at Sunnybrooke Hospital (Toronto, Ontario).

In April 1984, Pollock was exhausted, depressed and attempting to break free of his addiction to cocaine. He had considered suicide and had himself committed under psychiatric care. Afterwards, Pollock fled to a residence he partially owned with friends located in Gordes, southeastern France. During this time period, he began recuperating and trying to come to terms with his life, his relationships and his failures. He concentrated his efforts on personal recovery and rediscovered art therapy.

Pollock's choice to refocus on his art led to successful exhibitions of his work. He held exhibitions in Gordes (September, 1984), Marseille (April, 1985) and Vichy (June, 1985). Pollock's warm reception by the French people inspired him immensely and he painted 200 paintings. Painting almost daily. Also during this time, Pollock was corresponding with a Toronto-based psychiatrist. These letters would later become the basis for an autobiographical book.

In 1988, Pollock returned to Toronto permanently after experiencing significant health problems related to his heart. Upon his return, he learned he had the HIV virus. Ever defiant, he held his first major exhibition in five years at the Brownstone Hotel.

In 1989, his edited letters to his psychiatrist ("Dear M") were published as a book titled Dear M: Letters from a Gentleman of Excess.

"What that poor bastard was letting himself in for when he said 'Write me'!" "It all just poured out. I don't think I could have made it without those letters."

The book was launched at the Bermuda Onion (leading Toronto jazz restaurant which closed in 1992) and was well received by critics and the public alike. It was shortlisted for the City of Toronto's Toronto Book Awards in 1990.

Although the identity of "Dear M" was not acknowledged in the media, his identify was well known within Toronto's gay community. "Dr M" was, in fact, Dr. Murray Wilson, an openly gay senior staff psychiatrist at Toronto's Wellesley Hospital from 1969 to 1985 and a former teacher of psychiatry at University of Ottawa and University of Toronto. Dr. Wilson was also a serious artist.

Jack Pollock was openly gay, writing about his homosexuality in both The Art of Norval Morrisseau and Dear M: Letters from a Gentleman of Excess. He eventually was diagnosed with AIDS and became a vocal advocate for AIDS research and for those suffering from the disease. He spoke openly about his diagnosis and its impact on his life:

"Because my immune system is gone, I was given very potent antibiotics that saved my life but destroyed my middle ear. Now I have no sense of balance, need to walk with a cane and can't go out alone. I miss my old mobility. It's extremely frustrating to wither away." "It didn't seem fair that after I'd gotten my life together, I was hit by AIDS, so I decided to paint my rage. You can lash out on paper, violate it, and it just absorbs the anger. No one gets hurt."

On the eve before his death, Pollock was scheduled to speak at a benefit for an AIDS hospice at what was billed to be his last public appearance. Unfortunately, Pollock was too ill to leave the hospital and succumbed to his illness the next evening on December 10, 1992.

"I've been thinking of death a lot, and I am amazed by its inevitability, frightened, as we all are, of the totally unknown, and yet feel a long sleep is somehow earned by those of us who live on the edge."

The last known photograph of Jack Pollock was taken shortly before his passing in 1992 at the Kinsman Robinson Galleries (Norval Morrisseau's principal dealer since 1989) beside a Morrisseau painting. As Pollock himself had predicted in 1984, he is still mostly recognized for his association with Norval Morrisseau.

Source:
"John Henry Pollock", Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Pollock
    

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