In 1951, Jackson Pollock was at his peak. A landmark 1949 article in Life magazine had asked whether he was “the greatest living painter in the United States,” yet he was struggling with his fame and sank into alcoholism and depression. The resulting paintings from that period, the “Black Pourings,” were a radical departure from his previous dripped work, and form the subject of Tate Liverpool’s current exhibition “Blind Spots.”
The concept of “creative block” is a complex one. From a psychoanalytic perspective, a block might constitute an unsuccessful attempt to channel one’s unconscious, as stymied by personal or emotional difficulties. Whether or not Pollock was blocked, it’s clear that his emotional and professional lives were deeply interlinked.
“It’s argued the change in his style came about because Pollock felt compelled to reinvigorate himself and the way he created artwork during a difficult period in his life,” says
Stephanie Straine, an assistant curator at Tate Liverpool. “I think it’s pretty safe to say that every creative person has experienced a block at some point,” adds Danielle Krysa, author of the 2014 book Creative Block.
So which artists have encountered such pronounced difficulty in their practice, and moved in a fresh direction? From sculptors to painters, the list is a long one. Here are some of the most compelling.