While it can be hard to attribute specific Pollock works to the period he spent at the workshop, the lithograph Landscape with Steer from that year shows him using an airbrush and automobile lacquer—two of Siqueiros’s favorite tricks. It features a chaotic landscape that hovers somewhere between the figurative and abstract.
Siqueiros’s own work—typically figurative and legible, as befitted the educational goals of Mexican muralism—was at its most abstract in a piece like Collective Suicide, for which he used a jigsaw, stencils, and an airbrush, as well as lacquer and paint thinner, to create an image. What Siqueiros in 1936 called a “controlled accident” would influence Pollock’s own later declaration that his drip paintings were not chaotic, but purposeful. Pollock would also claim in a 1950 interview that “new needs need new techniques,” an echo of Siqueiros’s axiom.
As for Pollock’s own politics, it’s hard to know exactly what views he held, and most historians don’t read political significance into his abstract work—though his paintings would later be used by the CIA to promote American freedom and individualism as a safeguard against Communism during the Cold War.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that in an interview in 1981, Clement Greenberg angrily proclaimed that Pollock was a “goddamn Stalinist from start to finish,” perhaps due to Pollock’s early relationship to Siqueiros.
For his part, Siqueiros would close the workshop at the end of 1936 and, in 1937, he joined the fight against Fascism—this time in battle, not through art—in the Spanish Civil War. The painter would later lead an assault on the compound of Leon Trotsky when the Soviet thinker was taking refuge in Mexico in 1940, which much of the American left held as evidence of Siqueiros’s misguided politics in the later part of his life.
Pollock never divorced himself from the Mexican painter, though, and a December 1936 letter from Siqueiros—directed only to Pollock, his brother Sandy, and his assistant Lehman upon the occasion of the closing of the workshop and signed “Always your comrade, A. Siqueiros”—suggests that the Mexican artist recognized even then the promise of the 24-year-old protégé he guided in anti-fascist resistance through artistic experimentation.