15 May, 2007

Mark Rothko's Posthumous Book

The late Mark Rothko (1903-1970) is my favorite of the Abstract Expressionists. Allow me to share the following quotes; one from a National Gallery of Art bio and the embedded quote from the artist, himself.

One of the preeminent artists of his generation, Mark Rothko is closely identified with the New York School, a circle of painters that emerged during the 1940s as a new collective voice in American art. During a career that spanned five decades, he created a new and impassioned form of abstract painting. Rothko's work is characterized by rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth, composition, and scale; yet, he refused to consider his paintings solely in these terms. He explained:

”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 is everywhere on the web taken out of context as saying "There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing". Of course, when read in context we see that he absolutely asserts the opposite.

Further to the subject of letting the great "color field" painter speak for himself, his son and daughter, Christopher and Kate Rothko have published The Artist’s Realities, Philosophies of Art, Mark Rothko, 2004. Walmart. Amazon.

The artist died by suicide, and apparently left a royal mess of his affairs. His estranged widow, Mell, died the following year, only exacerbating the legal disarray of their estate. The fallout from all of the hassles is said to have been so overwhelming for the Rothko offspring, that the handwritten notes that later comprised this memoir were not discovered or read for decades. I found this great, great piece quoting Christopher about his feelings while organizing the manuscripts.

As a matter of marketing and presentation, it's a lucky turn for the unlucky progeny of the artist. Who doesn't love to "discover" the long-lost history of a great man? It remains now for the art historians to review the writings of the "Theologian of the Abstract Expressionists" and give them some context within the broaden understanding that we have of Rothko's vision.


Personally, I'd like to find a box of van Gogh's long-lost letters to his sister.

A blogger in Seattle has a short take on the book.









Anonymous said...

I swear Casey!!! It's like coming to a history class here at your blog. I think that's wonderful! Seeing as many can not get the education needed. They can only learn from home, yours is a wonderful blog to visit! I just wanted to say that... :)

Casey Klahn said...

Hopefully people will explore past my very simple introductions to topics.
Thanks for reading!

Making A Mark said...

I think I've been waiting for this one....... ;) Thanks for all the links.

Casey - I listed your blog on mine today re the new Pastel Journal blog. Take a look see.

Philip said...

It is interesting to note that the man himself denied that his paintings were 'abstract'.Whatever, a true great and a massive influence for me.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Philip. His take on things interests me a lot. I think he worked hard at not being pinned down, so as to enjoy a bit more artistic freedom. He also denied the descriptor: "colorist" when applied to him.
I have ordered the book, and will have much more to say about the old man, soon.
I almost think that there is more about him in writing than about J Pollock...
Hey, thanks, Katherine! I am slow on the draw these days - just coming through a small health speed bump, and now the art fairs are rising up to meet me faster than expected.
I will probably cross-post your link to me, and I appreciate it greatly.

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism