January 29, 2013
The Revealed Truth

From Stanley Fish’s blog in The Opinionator:

“We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth” (Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, letter to The New York Times, 1943). In Color Field painting, “figure and ground are one, and the space of the picture, conceived as a field, seems to spread out beyond the edges of the canvas.” As a result you are not encouraged to engage in higher-order thoughts about what you are viewing; it’s all very elemental; it hits you straight on. Rothko declared that “The fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted by my pictures shows that I communicated … basic human emotions.”

What other explanation could there be?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at January 29, 2013 02:43 PM
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This topic brings immediately to mind Tom Wolfe's sbort, scathing nonfiction book, The Painted Word (Bantam/Doubleday 1976).

Posted by: Everett Van Dorn on January 29, 2013 4:01 PM

"The Painted Word: Exposes The Myths And Men Of Modern Art."

Posted by: Everett Van Dorn on January 29, 2013 4:18 PM

Well, what other reason indeed? Hubristic stupidity often makes me weep, but hey, that could just be me, right?

Posted by: Syrbal/Labrys on January 29, 2013 4:25 PM

“We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth”

And the clearly revealed truth is that....?

Actually, I think Rothko is a genius. He figured out how to smears five dollars worth of black paint on three dollars worth of canvas and sell it for millions.

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank

Posted by: The New York Crank on January 29, 2013 4:53 PM

I'd cry too, to think that I wasted all that money on museum admission when I could have gone to the movies with it.

Posted by: Duff Orben on January 29, 2013 5:41 PM

I first read that opening line as, "We are for flat worms...". This may be why I am pending cataract surgery in a week.

Posted by: Erich on January 29, 2013 8:48 PM

And I thought Dali's 5-line nude was clever. (sound of palm smacking forhead) What was I thinking?

Posted by: Phil on January 30, 2013 12:45 AM

Art is communication with the viewer, isn't it? So isn't it a form of hostility for the artist to slam your face against a blank wall when you were expecting something to engage with? The notion of painting something featureless and promoting the expectation that the viewer get something out of it -- it's one of these 1950s cruel jokes, like "No Soap, Radio!" where the joke is in the listener's confused discovery that there is no punch line.

If someone wept on looking at a Rothko, I'd think it would be from a sense of rejection, as with the infant whose mother briefly refuses to acknowledge him in the "Still Face Experiment". That blankness is not friendly.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on January 30, 2013 3:11 AM

It is what it is, and not a reflection of something else. There is no myth, there is nothing other than the painting. It is not a joke either. He was asking the viewer to look only at the painting and not expect it to tell a story about some other place, or event, or anything. Be in the moment. It is a simple and age old artistic message.

Posted by: Chip on January 30, 2013 2:24 PM

I heard that Boehner wept uncontrollably for hours after viewing. Really.

Posted by: knowdoubt on January 31, 2013 9:28 AM

Looks like a clever forgery to me.

Posted by: Nugatory on January 31, 2013 10:13 AM

I bet the floor is an original though.

Posted by: PSymbol on January 31, 2013 2:32 PM
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