Who The #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

2006, Movie, PG-13, 74 mins


Among modern artists whose work prompts the remark, "My kid could do that," notorious abstract-expressionist Jackson Pollock, who rocked the mid-20th-century art world by flinging paint across large canvases, tops the list. His easily copied technique has led to the "discovery" of a number of false Pollocks in recent years, but none is as intriguing as the canvas whose tale is told in Harry Moses' intriguing little documentary. Fifteen years ago, salty, 72-year-old long-haul trucker Teri Horton walked into a San Bernardino thrift store looking for something that might cheer up a depressed friend. She decided on a large canvas that, in her opinion, looked more like an accident than a proper painting. After bargaining the owner down to $5, Teri walked out with an artwork she thought was pretty darned ugly. Her friend agreed, and they decided to resell it at a garage sale. It was there the painting caught the eye of a local art teacher, who thought it looked remarkably like something Pollock might have done. Teri, in her inimitable style, replied, "Who the f--- is Jackson Pollock?" Teri found out soon enough — or, more to the point, she found out how much his canvases command on the open market. But when she tried to have the painting authenticated, she learned some hard truths about the rarefied art world: Authentication depends on the expertise of an anonymous body of connoisseurs, and with nothing more than a receipt from Dot's Spot Thrift in San Berdoo by way of provenance, Teri was a long way from selling her painting as a Pollock. The art world may have laughed in her face — who ever heard of a lady trucker in possession of a priceless Pollock? — but Teri wasn't about to go away quietly. With the help of her son, an auto-body mechanic, she hired Peter Paul Biro, a world-renowned forensic art expert who specializes in authenticating works of dubious origin. Using state-of-the-art techniques to examine the surface of Teri's painting, Biro was uncertain, until he flipped the canvas over and discovered an intriguing clue: a fingerprint. Moses' film is nothing fancy: The voice-over narration and unadorned, investigative style attest to Moses' years as a 60 Minutes producer. But the mystery is marvelous, and with a cast of real-life characters like the unbearably snooty Thomas Hoving, former director of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and art dealer Tod Volpe, who went to jail for defrauding clients like Jack Nicholson and Joel Silver and devised a novel scheme to sell Teri's "Pollock," it doesn't need much in the way of frills. And at the center of this storm of art-world nonsense stands Teri herself, a blowsy, growly survivor who won't take no for answer and just might be sitting on a painting worth millions. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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Who The #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?
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