Monday, January 19, 2009

Mark Rothko

Mural for End Wall (1959)

K and I went to catch the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern on Saturday before it closes at the end of the month.

I'd seen Rothkos before of course, but there's nothing like seeing a lot of an artist's work to get a feel for what their art is all about. This collection featured work from 1958 to 1969, mainly series of paintings done for specific locations or commissions.

I have no formal art history training, so have difficulty judging abstract art beyond impressions and feelings. Here's a jumble of them about Rothko:

  • They are generally very 'friendly' works, they don't appear threatening or aggressive in the way that a lot of contemporary Brit Art seems to be.
  • The size of the canvasses is huge. This sort of art needs well lit large public spaces (duh like art galleries duh) for display. Few private homes are large enough to actually contain a Rothko, unless you hung it on the stairs or something.
  • K is trained artist, and she drew my attention to the subtlety of the technique; a mixture of gloss and matt paint, lots of layers, feathered edges. Also the choice of colour is deliberate and precise.
  • As so often with big exhibitions of this type, the crowds got in the way of the experience. This especially applies to Mark Rothko; I love to plonk myself down on a bench opposite one of the giant canvasses and just let the colour wash over me. You couldn't really do that at the Tate Modern on a Saturday afternoon. Some fuckers even had their toddlers with them - why not take the sprogs to see "Battleship Potemkin" afterwards? Poor kids - bored to death with something totally unsuitable for them. Damn the cheap bastard parents who can't be bothered to pay for a babysitter.
  • Fave series of paintings were three or four out of the 'black' series of seven. These really were rather impressive technically, and looked years ahead of their time - painted in the mid 1960s, they would have looked perfect in a 1980s setting (see below).

Number 1 (1964)

You could just imagine that painting in Patrick Bateman's sitting room.

Thanks Mark!



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