ART/Abstract or not  – Mark Rothko

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Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970) was an American painter of Russian Jewish descent. He is considered one of the most famous postwar American artists along with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Generally identified as an Abstract Expressionist, he himself rejected this label and even resisted classification as an “abstract painter.”

rothko4The most important aspect of painting for Mark Rothko was the creation of space within it.  For him, artists were seekers of truth and he sought to communicate his understanding of the world, not through colour, as we might imagine, but through a sense of space within the work.

Mark Rothko along with Adolph Gottlieb published the Abstract Expressionist Manifesto, which read as follows:

rothko3 ‘To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explained only by those willing to take risks. This world of the imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense. It is our function as artists to make the spectator see the world our way – not his way. We favour the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth… ‘rothko1

‘You might as well get one thing straight.  I’m not an abstract artist...I’m not interested in the relationship of colour or form or anything else.  I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on.  And the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate these basic human emotions…The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience as I had when I painted them.’


I find them intriguing.  How about you?


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