Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rothko Said True Art Has the Spirit of Myth

I have been wondering, for a while, about the myth of Iphigenia.
She was the daughter of Agamemnon, the Mycenean king. Her name means strong born.
Agamemnon ticked off the goddess Artemis by killing an animal on her temple the day he was to sail from Aulis to Troy to start a big war.
Artemis stopped the wind so the men could not sail. A seer told Agamemnon to trick his daughter into coming to Aulis so he could sacrifice her to Artemis. Iphigenia thought she was going to Aulis to marry Achilles, but when she and her mother got there she was taken to the alter and a knife was placed at her throat. At this moment Artemis substituted a deer for her (some say it was Pan) and took her to Tauris, where she made her the goddess Hecate.

I think, especially in color field, Rothko was looking for a felt knowledge of being. Myth helps convey that in words, it isn't roped into being the least bit logical, it's all metaphor. In color field you either feel something or you feel something else. If you can describe it, great, and if you can't, great. I think the same is true when you give yourself to myth. The beauty is how open it is, this work, this whole world really. You can sit down and do it yourself, if you can just stop thinking long enough.

Above: Study related to The Sacrifice of Iphigenia by Rothko, 1942-1943

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