In an article published ... in the prestigious science journal Nature, two physicists contend that a method intended to identify complex geometric patterns in the seemingly chaotic drip paintings of Jackson Pollock is flawed and may be useless in the increasingly convoluted world of authenticating Pollock’s work.
The article, written by a physics professor and a physics doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, provides a new twist in the mystery surrounding a group of small drip paintings discovered several years ago in a storage locker in Wainscott, N.Y. They were found by Alex Matter, whose father, Herbert, and mother, Mercedes, were artists and friends of Pollock’s. Mr. Matter believes the paintings are authentic Pollocks, and if he is proved right, they will not only be worth millions of dollars but will also add an important new chapter to Pollock’s work.
But the paintings have incited a lively and sometimes bitter debate among Pollock scholars. And as a result, greater attention has been focused on the role science is now playing alongside connoisseurship in the business of art authentication.
Last winter the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which represents the artist’s estate, commissioned Richard P. Taylor, an associate professor of physics at the University of Oregon, to examine some of the disputed paintings. He used a technique he pioneered, which he said identified consistent patterns known as fractals — regularities that recur on finer and finer magnification, like those in snowflakes — in several authentic Pollocks.
Using the same computer analysis on transparencies of 6 of the 24 paintings discovered by Mr. Matter, Dr. Taylor found “significant differences” between their patterns and those of the known Pollocks he had examined. [More...]