Easter and the Totem, 1953 by Jackson Pollock

When we look at this painting by Jackson Pollock, made in 1953, it's impossible to deny that Henri Matisse was someone with whom Pollock was trying to make a connection in his work at this time. In these last few years of his life he was trying to figure out where to go from the drip paintings.

One of the great connections we see between Pollock and Matisse in this painting is the use of the color black. Matisse wrote a beautiful essay about black, and he wrote of it as a color not of darkness but a color of light. And here you see the feeling of black as something vibrant and powerful, not by any means as merely an absence of color.

It does seem like it's an Easter Island figure at the far left of the painting, the big, tall vertical form. Pollock was looking not only to Matisse but to the artists of non-Western, non-modern cultures for a way to get back to the essence of art, for a way to get back to what really mattered.