This was his personal favorite, and graced his dining room in the Fork of Long Island for some years. It was finally sold in 1955 for $2500 to a private collector who donated it to the Yale Art Gallery after it had been exhibited at the New York World’s Fair 1964.
It has long been a favorite of mine. The Edward Malley Company employed many local artists to do store displays, here in New Haven, and so in a way, I’ve seen it before I had actually seen it, because quite a few of them liked Pollock and used his imagery throughout the store. About the best I can proffer in contemporary retail is the scribbly logo of Saks Fifth Avenue. In primary school art classes, I found that saying that I liked paintings like it, and Mondriaan, was a way to get a favorable nod, but I didn’t really understand it until, in my late teens, I went to an exhibition at the Yale Art Gallery where they highlighted a kind of art I could understand (Japanese ink painting) and which I knew at least a little how to do, with this thing called Abstract Expressionism, which was, at least at that time, as opaque a subject as early Heavy Metal.
From what I can tell, it’s a mixture of brown oil paint, laid on thinly as a primer, black gloss enamel (redolent of car culture!), dripped on, and thinned-out white and grey oil or matte enamel as a top layer, although there are places where it appears that some more black was laid on over the white. The name of the painting was given by Pollack’s friends, and refers to the “dance” that he did while painting, and the white dreamlike “figures” in the busy activity of the painting.
I place the word “figures” in quotes because the painting is clearly nonrepresentational in intention, but to me at least, strongly suggests stylized human figures playing musical instruments, (the central circle looks to be a drum, the leftmost circle looks part of a bass), gesticulating, and, most compellingly, a figure kneeling whose head and gesture looks like an African (though human or simply primate, or some mixture —deplorable as it might seem — I cannot tell). While the general feeling is celebratory, even elegant, the tension between the Drummer (whose hunched shoulders suggest fanaticism or frenzy) and the kneeling figure, whose posture looks to be of submission or wonder, remain one of its most striking features.