Jackson Pollock came out of Wyoming with a quirky sense of independence that would revolutionize modern painting. One of his first teachers, Thomas Hart Benton (who painted the murals in the IU Auditorium), taught him a grand, rhythmic compositional structure that could roll across big canvases. From Pablo Picasso, he took the flattened structures of Cubism, and from the Surrealists he learned the notion of “automatic writing,” that sought to liberate the power of the unconscious by letting the hand draw freely.

Pollock put this all together as he began to release himself from the representation of figures and focus on pure color and large, arm and body-sized gestures. He made his breakthrough by discovering he could apply paint by dripping or pouring it on to the canvas, which allowed him to swiftly layer skeins of color with both spontaneity and transparency. The result was the rawly physical and emotional visual language of Abstract Expressionism.