My theory about Pollock’s Reflection of the Big Dipper is that the title should be taken literally. It shows reflections of clouds, stars and tree branches in a puddle. I just saw the piece in person for the first time at the Stedelijk, and see no reason to abandon that interpretation. What has not been clear to me till now is that the ropes of thrown enamel went on last, over the titular reflection and oil painted first layer, so maybe they can’t be called tree branches only. After all, this piece is one of the crucial transitions toward the full blown drip works, so its meaning breaks. Most shocking is the color of the oil paint—purple, alizarin, orange, yellow-green, more grassy green—a real salad.
The skeins are far from random: note the splashy encircled nexus in the upper right, with the smaller hook/semi circle surrounding a patch of green (looks yellow in the reproduction) slightly below and to the left, above another splashy bit. See the large bent finger shape that occupies the left side and across the top. There are strong grid feelings given by strokes of oil paint along the left hand edge and parallel ones at the lower right (these don’t show up in the reproduction). The design of the skeins is kind of figurative, Miro-like. Floating free from the lower level but still responding to it. I love that kind of relationship between levels. And the blue opening into the night sky anticipates The Deep, which now seems sad and depressive, but still supported by this earlier work. Over all, quite a tightly organized piece, and it feels sprung, not scattered.