Will the Real Janet Sobel Please Stand Up?



The importance of this misidentification becomes clear in Levin’s attempt to map the route by which Jackson Pollock became acquainted with, if not influenced by, Janet Sobel’s all-over abstract style, for Levin writes, “We can be sure, too, that Pollock knew Sobel’s Music, for it appeared as a full-page color reproduction that year [1944] in Sidney Janis’s Abstract & Surrealist Art in America.”12

            Although Pollock knew Music, we are not assured that Levin did; Music’s caption to plate 5 of her article in the WAJ says that the painting’s location is unknown and that its photo’s source was Janis’s Abstract & Surrealist Art in America. (A double check of Abstract & Surrealist Art in America verifies that it did reproduce Music, on page [96], and provided, on the facing page, the reproduction’s caption and Sobel’s statement correlating the feelings she derived from hearing Shostakovitch’s stirring music to those she wanted to instill in her painting Music). As indicated above, Sobel’s Milky Way was painted in 1945 and could not have been reproduced in Abstract & Surrealist Art in America, which was published in 1944. Levin also tells us that Pollock saw Sobel’s first solo exhibition (1944) at Manhattan’s Puma Gallery, on Fifty-Seventh Street, and that Music was featured in that exhibition, although the painting was not on the show’s checklist.13 Levin mentions that a 1944 review in the Brooklyn Eagle reported on the exhibition of Sobel’s latest painting, Music.14 This review was probably a Brooklyn Eagle article dated April 25, 1944, one day after her opening at the Puma Gallery. Clippings of this article, provided me by Gary Snyder, contain a photograph of, its caption says, Sobel explaining her painting Music to the Puma Gallery’s director, Fernando Puma. However, the Brooklyn Eagle, like the Woman’s Art Journal, identifies another wrong painting—in this case a figural one, crowded with clothed and some unclothed women and men, pressed against each other and against the landscape beside and behind them—as Sobel’s Music.

            Now that we know that Levin has mistaken Milky Way for Music, we can only be baffled by Levin’s sentence in the WAJ that reads: “Given the prominent exhibition history documented for Sobel’s Music, with its dripped enamel paint

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All texts copyright © Libby Seaberg,2009