Buds in Bloom: Description and Meaning Behind Jim Pollock's "HIGH PHI" Exhibition

Written by Rachel Fernandez


Summer transformed to fall, and an autumnal breeze flooded through Galerie F’s open door as the Logan Square art store and gallery presented their latest exhibition titled “HIGH PHI.” Guests in light jackets milled around between walls displaying images of a lone, brightly-colored cannabis plant replicated on different backgrounds. 


The “HIGH PHI” exhibit held on Friday, Sept. 23 featured artist Jim Pollock on the cusp of his artistic transformation. Galerie F gave Pollock a platform to showcase new art and designs that deviate from his iconic Phish merchandise and gig posters and focuses more on marketing for the marijuana industry. 


“I wanted to free up my style and start working outside of the constructs of poster art,” Pollock says. “I didn’t want letters, I wanted some kind of form, and I wanted something abstract but still organic and fun.”

Pollock talks with a friend and fan at the exhibition opening Friday night. Filming for a documentary film about Pollock and his work took place throughout the evening. 

Pollock talks with a friend and fan at the exhibition opening Friday night. Filming for a documentary film about Pollock and his work took place throughout the evening. 

The central image is a geometric bud of weed designed using the mathematical concept of phi, also known as the golden ratio. This occurs in mathematics if the ratio of two quantities is the same as their ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. The dimensions can be found in ancient Greek and Egyptian architecture as well as in the Fibonacci sequence. 


“The two buds are created using that same formula,” Pollock says. “Basically, they are two phi rectangles making the composite one also a phi rectangle. I’m trying to bring it back and make phi cool along with legalizing marijuana.”


Another layer to the image is its social commentary. Through spreading the design, Pollock is aiming to raise awareness for the benefits of legalizing marijuana. He hopes the piece will help normalize the substance and “pretty up the walls in some of the dispensaries” to draw in more customers. 


“There’s this blossoming industry and if you’re going to draw in new clients you’ve got to bring the people in with some pretty things on the wall to make it more inviting,” Pollock says. “I see nothing but a lot of possibility with this direction.”

The piece has no words or images around it, leading to a strange juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity. Although the prints and wood carvings only have one design, that design is very carefully calculated and focuses on an objectively controversial subject matter.

The many visual and conceptual layers to the design inspired a variety of perspectives on the image from the exhibition attendees. Every onlooker saw and experienced the piece in different ways, engaging more senses than just sight.


“It’s very textured. It seems very heavy and the colors are purple, green and orange. You can tell that he layered many different colors in the screen print. I like his signature the best. It’s kind of like this funny ‘P’ with a little loop at the bottom of it. [The bud] has a little bob on the top, like if you think of a man bun at the top. I like the work because even though they’re all really similar, the different colors and combination of colors is what makes it interesting. There’s pastels, but also like bright blue and bright pink backgrounds to everything,” one viewer observed.

Although this particular exhibit is primarily visual, the intense details in the design can lead to a tangible experience.


“If you put your hands on it, it would feel like you were touching a concrete wall except the edges are kind of like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree combined with a Twinkie shape,” The spectator closed her eyes to envision what colors would feel like. “There’d be a slimy [color]. There’s long slimy shapes in the middle, and then there’s prickly, almost tickly, colors, and a little bit of hot colors that you have to be careful with,” a viewer detailed.

Other observers looked beyond the visuals and connected more with the commentary behind the design.


“So, you can see that there’s a social background to it. I think it’s really cool that he’s pushing the social awareness thing. It’s a little deviation from what he’s historically done. And to put it into the full frame here I think it’s really cool, even compared to the prints that are separated from the top and the bottom. You’ve got the colors, you’ve got some of the background peeking through, and I think you can relate that to society as a whole. You have the people in the background starting to peek through and starting to wake up in terms of what’s really coming to the light in terms of marijuana, and the benefits that it provides, and the actuality of what it has in terms of an impact on society and whatnot. A lot of people can see in different ways but like art, if you look at it through a different lens it’s a whole different thing, so it’s pretty neat,” a viewer described.

Pollock’s own description of the design captures its essence through comparison.


“It’s a four color print, and basically it’s green and purple with red hairs, and it’s like a beautiful flower. I was thinking it was reminding me of like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting or something like that. A very abstract and organic form,” Pollock says.

Although Pollock is taking his art in a different direction, his fans and supporters will not be disappointed. His unique artistic vision translates to his new designs and their respective mediums.


“A true Jim Pollock fan is going to recognize his work when they see it,” Galerie F owner Billy Craven says. “It’s not as obvious as seeing a concert poster of his, but you’ll recognize his telltale traits in his finished print work. It’s a relaxing segway from what he’s traditionally been doing.”


Contact Rachel by email at rachel.fernandez@yahoo.com

All photos courtesy of Megan Stringer