Saturday, August 2, 2008


Mark Rothko
(America, born Russia, 1905-1970)
Orange and Yellow, 1956
Oil on canvas, 91 x 71"
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery

No fancy title today. In honor of Ben's birthday I asked him for a suggestion for this weekend's art of the day. He gave me Rothko. Happily, I present to you
Orange and Yellow. I recently took a picture of this work at the Albright Knox but realized the pic was a little blurry so back to the internet I went. If you haven't seen a Rothko in person you must remedy that situation. I am also including another pic here of a Rothko (same choice of color, different composition) in a gallery. The black walls really make the painting pop, which is an interesting way to see it since I have never really looked at Rothko's work in that way, as a jumping out at you sort of experience. The affect greatly varies depending on the color of the particular painting and of course when we are looking at such bright hot colors like orange and yellow...

The physical context of art is an important part of how it is perceived, from the color and height of the walls to the surround works, the size of the gallery, the other visitors. I've found despite the number of peopl
e in a gallery I can often feel solitary in front of a Rothko (unless of course someone walks in front of me). I used a paper that I wrote about Rothko to apply to graduate school. I haven't read it in awhile but I do know I wrote it for my Fine Arts Senior Seminar which was on the subject of landscape. In Rothko's work you can talk about horizon lines and color field painting, much of this entered my essay. Rothko's career consisted of a very visible transition towards what are considered his "Classic Paintings", like this one. Click on Rothko's name up top and check out a good timeline of his artistic life, many would be surprised to see that he started out with emotion heavy realistic themes to surrealism to loss of direct imagery in smaller canvases on to a focus on space, color and field.

Rothko is associated with the New York School of painters and abstract expressionism, fellow artist in chromatic abstraction, Barnett Newman (who you will surely see on this blog soon), and the gestural abstraction/action painting of Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. The affiliation between the New York artists was a committment to large scale paintings and achieving an expressiveness through the physical act of painting and both chance and control. An excellent read that brings you into the New York art world of the 40s-60s is the biography, De Kooning: An American master, which I highly recommend. I also recommend if you are in Houston to go to the Rothko Chapel (We hope to go next summer when we'll be in Texas for a wedding). I could keep going, as this is my area of interest in art but I'll leave it to you to do some more exploring. Enjoy!
and... Rothko for kids!

"It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing." Rothko

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