Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Homage to Mark Rothko: Adventure into an Unknown World

"Art is an adventure into
an unknown world, which
can be explored only by those
willing to take risks."
~ Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko Untitled 1958 painting
This week's drawing and quote celebrate Mark Rothko, an artist whose work I discovered many years ago at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. At first blush, Rothko's work seems uncomplicated, but the personal vision and creative intention that motivated his paintings were complex. Many of his canvases are imposing because of their scale. This 1954 photo of the artist handling one of his works shows their size:

When I first discovered Rothko, I responded immediately to the colors, shapes, textures, and overall compositions, and through the years, his work has contributed to a personal mental model for a genre of non-representational art that invokes intense feeling through apparent simplicity.

Rothko came to mind as I was thinking about a quote and drawing for this week's blog post, when, for inspiration, I turned to The Anywhere Art Guide cards by Magda Lipka Falck. One card offers this suggestion: "Find a very, very small piece of art and a very, very large piece of art. Compare them." Immediately, I made a connection between Rothko's oeuvre and a singleton earring I have kept in a safe place after having lost the other.  Alas, the earrings were my favorites.

Before reading Falck's prompt, I had never put these two bits of my world together. I had never quite understood why I loved these earrings so much (apart from the memory of the person who gave them to me), as they are -- or were in their plural identity -- quite ordinary in appearance. But there was something I really loved about them, despite their ordinariness. Maybe my strong positive feelings were inspired by Rothko's paintings.

For a fascinating tour of Mark Rothko's artistic evolution, visit this slide show on the National Gallery's website: Mark Rothko.