Behind the Scenes, Paintings

Three Cameras, One Painting—Pollock’s “Mural” on Video

To tell the story of Jackson Pollock’s monumental work, filmmakers drew inspiration from the painting itself

Laptop with Jackson Pollock's Mural

Behind the scenes during production of videos about Jackson Pollock’s Mural. Painted 1943, oil and casein on canvas, 95 5/8 x 237 3/4 in. The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim, 1959.6. Reproduced with permission from The University of Iowa

In the galleries and online, a series of short films documents the collaborative project between the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Museum to study and conserve Jackson Pollock’s Mural, which finishes up its extended stay in Los Angeles this Sunday.

For these films, a group of designers, artists, filmmakers, and other creative folks at the Getty worked with our team at L.A. creative studio Commonwealth Projects to devise a unique approach. We wanted to create films inspired by Pollock’s Mural, but with a contemporary visual vocabulary.

A Painterly Approach to Digital Video

The many varieties and applications of paints in Mural—artist’s oils and house paint, thick impasto and thin glaze, colors brushed on and splattered—give the painting its distinctive look. We decided to emulate this layered aesthetic in the films. To do this, we used not one or two, but three different cameras and lenses, the 21st-century equivalent of blending oil and latex.

We created some of the footage with vintage lenses that allow grain, soften edges, and allow imperfections, due to the quality and clarity of the lens’s glass. Other parts we filmed with a brand-new, high-end Zeiss lens that captured the surface details of the painting. Added to this was very different footage from a conservator’s GoPro Camera, which we used to create time lapses of the conservation process.

This varied aesthetics of this footage—soft, grainy, sharp, pixelated, organic, digitized—is layered in the films to create a painterly effect inspired by Pollock’s masterpiece. The overarching approach is not unlike that of paintings conservators and conservation scientists at the Getty: it unites the past with new technologies to create what we hope is an original, contemporary experience.

Lens Flare and ‘70s L.A.

The Pollock videos represent the second time we’ve collaborated with a team at the Getty to blend technology old and new. In From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine’s Gray Column, we used a series of vintage Nikon lenses attached to a digital camera (a Canon EOS 5D) to explore the ‘70s Los Angeles art scene, artist De Wain Valentine, and the Getty Conservation Institute’s research into the conservation challenges of the artist’s sculpture Gray Column. While contemporary lenses are designed to inhibit lens flare, we intentionally boosted it with vintage lenses to highlight the artist’s interest in the ephemeral qualities of light in Southern California.

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The films on Pollock’s Mural were recently awarded a gold MUSE award by the American Alliance of Museums in the Video, Film, and Computer Animation category.

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