Monday, October 27, 2008


Mark Rothko, Late Work

A long overdue reflection on the Rothko exhibit at the Tate Modern in London. This photograph of his painting does not do it justice; nor do these, but they're better and you can learn a little bit about the exhibit too.

Many of Mark Rothko's late works were composed in series, one stage or color haunting the frame. The Seagram Murals, commissioned in 1958 by the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram building though never actually displayed there, loom over museum-goers from their placement high up on the very large walls. My notes tell of a framed penetration and the massiveness of invention. They must speak to each other - the paintings.

My favorite, though, were his black-form paintings composed in 1964. These are marked by Rothko's shift from the brilliant colors of his more well-known paintings from his earlier years, to this pervasive non-colour1. These paintings demand attention, for the longer you look, the more you are rewarded with the discovery of depth and layers underneath the surface. It is also important to note how Rothko had moved away from the soft edges of his earlier works to the straight edges of these works.
Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or a tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint. -Georgia O'Keeffe
I agree.

While here, I thought of a woman walking into a painting. Not a landscape. Just color, a block of.

1. Black, a. literal. The proper word for a certain quality practically classed among colours, but consisting optically in the total absence of colour, due to the absence or total absorption of light, as its opposite white arises from the reflection of all the rays of light