Siqueiros and Pollock: Using Hydrodynamic Instabilities to Paint

Series/Event Type: 


The art of David A. Siqueiros and Jackson Pollock could not be more different. However, the paths of these two artists crossed early in their careers. In 1936 Siqueiros organized an experimental painting workshop in New York; Pollock was among the attendees. In this event, the painters essentially played around with paints, techniques and materials to produce new ways to produce textures and patterns of aesthetic value. During this particular workshop, Pollock started experimenting with his famous dripping technique and Siqueiros invented his ‘accidental painting’ technique. Curiously, from the physical point of view, both techniques rely on the same principle: hydrodynamic instability. The case of Siqueiros’ accidental painting technique, the spotted patterns result from the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which is the result of superposing fluid layers of different colors and densities on top of each other. Pollock’s dripping technique uses curling and beading instabilities to produce curly lines and spots in his abstract expressionist art. In this talk I will show the results of our experimental investigation to replicate the techniques. The overall objective of our investigations is to gain fundamental understanding of the mechanics of the painting.

Roberto Zenit, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico
Bowen Hall
Room number or other detail: 
Room 222
Friday, October 23, 2015 - 3:30pm
Faculty Host: 
Hosting Group: 

Speaker Bio

Professor Zenit received his PhD from the ME department at Caltech in 1998. After a postdoctoral period at Cornell University, he moved to Mexico City in 2000 to become a faculty member at the Univesidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. He has been there ever since. He is now a full professor in Mechanical Engineering and a Researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Materiales, both at UNAM. He recently spent a sabbatical year at Caltech, thanks to the support of a Fulbright scholarship. His area of expertise is Fluid Mechanics; he has worked in a wide variety of subjects including multiphase and granular flows, biological flows, rheology, and more recently the fluid mechanics of art history.