Last week, I went on a mission to take in the current exhibition, “The Art of Our Time”, now showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). I wrote on Culture Honey about an unexpected, serendipitous visit to L.A.’s newest contemporary art museum, The Broad, and then included a bit about “The Art of Our Time” exhibit.
The piece that caught my attention from the exhibit is the 1959, “No. 301” (Reds and Violet over Red/Red and Blue over Red) by Mark Rothko. The thing is, I had never really focused on Mark Rothko’s work before last week. I didn’t realize what a treat I was in for when I started to dig deeper into not only his paintings, but his ideas and thinking behind them them as well. I must say that after researching further, I am completely captivated!
In the PBS produced, “Artbound”, a video found on the MOCA website, USC’s Suzanne Hudson says of Rothko, “He … believed that color was a better vehicle for communicating interior states of emotion and feeling and there could be a kind of universality achieved purely through color.” In another video, Mark Rothko – Vibrations, artist Mary Weatherford talks about the “vibrating” color choices he makes. She also compares the paintings of Mark Rothko to a practiced musical composition, referring to a piano having 88 keys from which to compose a musical work and saying, “There are an infinite number of colors – Rothko is moving around the color wheel.” My favorite quote from Weatherford mentions the space in-between the Rothko piece and the viewer as being where the “real” encounter happens! For me, this especially struck home having just spent time in sociology class discussing the eastern/Chinese understanding of “Qi” – specifically referring to the space in between objects as what connects all things.
The meditative, contemplative aspects of Rothko’s work are not to be overlooked. Indeed, “he often spent hours sitting near a blank canvas in quiet contemplation before proceeding to paint” (that’s how the biography on the official Mark Rothko site puts it). In fact, Rothko himself is quoted as saying, “Silence is so accurate.” and, “That is why we profess a spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.”
So Rothko’s work in general, (and No. 301 specifically), invites us into an experience, a moment, or series of moments – with our interior self – as we relate and connect to our place and time in the universe. To look, see, observe, and experience the art of Mark Rothko is to possess the possibility of an incredible, personal interaction with life-through-art, as introduced by a vibrant, colorful oil painting. I found in this piece a profound example of blurring the boundaries between life and art, which was in fact the theme of the Art History class essay assignment that I turned in.
Rothko is quoted as saying that through his work he was exploring the mythical and the spiritual, with the color acting as a “doorway” into another reality. With No. 301, I believe Mark Rothko provides us the opportunity to explore these themes with him.