Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Rothko – No. 14 1960, Emotion and Myth
"In essence, it is emotionality which replaced the myth. The common designation for emotionality is mood." ... Mark Rothko
To stand as Rothko intended 18 inches from his paintings, the viewer becomes part of the painting. Here the people in the room are seeing with their eyes but are not engaged with the painting. They're missing the emotionality of the color that creates a vibrancy and at times an urgency. It's about contemplation in our world where myths have receded into the background. Color creates the emotion replacing the myth that was once there.
Renee Jorgensen wrote about this in her paper published on line at DismantledThoughts:
Rothko’s search for myth, and subsequent reliance on emotionality was motivated by
“dissatisfaction with partial and specialized truths and the desire to immerse ourselves with the
felicity of an all-inclusive unity.” He sought to re-establish myth by stripping away borrowed
forms, revealing the meaninglessness of representation, and thereby creating space for the age to
generate new myths. Emotionality, as the last powerful expression of the unity and
connectedness of individuals, was the sole form capable of ushering the viewer into the presence
of the metaphysical. Perhaps, if the paintings succeeded in their attempts to create such an
experience, the cultural ideology would slowly shift, building a framework capable of generating
a myth for our age. Ultimately Rothko’s paintings are as directly representational as possible in
an age without myth. To precipitate the change that would make possible the return of the
figure, painting had to be stripped of every particular, leaving only those elements capable of
creating mood: color, scale, and time.
My husband, Voice from the Couch, reminded me as we've talked of Rothko of the first time he saw Homage to Matisse at the Portland Art Museum. It wasn't until he stood directly in front of the canvas and looked that he saw the colors vibrate. Later at lunch he said he could still feel the warmth and joy coming from the top yellow/orange. "I wouldn't have really seen his painting unless I had stood in such close proximity to it."