Math in the Media

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"Pollock's Fractals," Jennifer Ouellette. Discover, November 2001.

Physicist and art historian Richard Taylor's research shows that JacksonPollock's drip paintings of 1943 to 1952 reveal creations of repeatingpatterns at different size scales---"just like fractals." Taylor concludesthat "the fractal dimensions of Pollock's earlier drip paintings correspondclosely to those found in nature". He cites Number 14 (1948) andBlue Poles (one of Pollock's last drip paintings, now worth over US$30million) in particular, as works with high fractal dimensions. Taylor'sresearch consisted of high-resolution photography (used to scan and dividethe images to study patterns) and perceptual psychology (in which humansubjects evaluated natural, computer-generated, and man-made fractalpatterns). The patterns in Pollock's works were found to have high fractaldimensions and consistently high appeal. In addition, Taylor claims that hecan identify genuine Pollock drip paintings by their unique quality: he evenclaims "he can date any Pollock canvas to within a year by analyzing itsfractal dimension."

--- Annette Emerson