Surely, this must be a joke

Don’t you just hate it when everybody else but you gets something?

Over the last year I’d been seeing more and more references to contemporary American artist Mark Rothko. Maybe one of his paintings recently sold for a record amount, I don’t know why his name kept coming up, but I tell you, I saw a segment on his contribution to the art world and I completely didn’t get it. In fact, that was the big joke in the house over the summer, me running around spouting out at random, “I don’t get it, I don’t GET Rothko! Help.”

At times I thought it was some snobby art joke on people who pretend to “get” things they don’t. Especially rich people who put up millions of dollars to buy these huge color rectangles of paint on canvas as proof they get it.

I almost blogged about it but that would have taken way more research than I was willing to do at the time. Once I start clicking on links about art, I go down a rabbit hole that i might not come out of for weeks or months. I was already entrenched in Ren art. Adding modern art to the mix might have broken my brain.

And it was part of this thirst for consuming Ren art that I found myself in the Dallas Museum of Art this fall, less than 50 feet from the front door and was punched in the face with a Rothko.

It was a canvas so huge it completely filled my visual field. Orange and red, not colors I even care for too much. Just before that, I’d seen about 15 paintings by various artists and my brain was probably a bit overstimulated with all the visual information. Shapes, colors, important moments…

I’ve read that people get the sensation of levitating while viewing Rothko’s abstracts. It was a little like that for me but I can tell you exactly how it felt, maybe this has happened to you.

You know that feeling you have when you are immersed in thought and your brain is racing a million miles an hour and you’re moving around rushing through a well lit room doing whatever it is you are doing and suddenly the lights go out and BAM you stop dead in your tracks and it is so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face? For a moment everything in your mind is cleared and you don’t know what hit you and you have no plan yet to get back on whatever track you were on?

That moment. That meeting yourself in the dark moment.

It made me laugh. It made me feel human and wise and like I was everywhere at once.

It is no joke.

This is the painting that zapped my brain.

Orange, Red and Red

If you want to hunt down some of his work and decide for yourself whether or not this is a pile of crap, click this link to find a Rothko near you.

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14 thoughts on “Surely, this must be a joke

  1. I have a similar reaction to Rothko (and NOT to some other modern artists). I can’t explain it, but I can feel it.
    Peter

  2. I like Rothko. I have a Rothko print hanging over the fireplace. I never thought of it as something someone has to get. I just enjoy seeing it every day. To me that is all art has to achieve to get a place on my wall. I enjoy seeing it every day.

    • I just couldn’t get how people could feel moved by his work. Out of context and on a tiny computer screen or television, it is not possible to be moved by a Rothko, I guess.

    • It is sort of like someone telling you about a 3D movie and unless you put those glasses on and sit in front of a 3D projection, you can’t experience it.
      It is less of a representation of something as with most art and more of an experience or feeling. A very sublime one.

      Or as we used to say in the old days, it’s a trip.

  3. Kitty, I had a VERY similar experience with Rothko. As an undergrad, I kind of liked his work, but felt pretty unimpressed. Mostly, I threw his name around feeling all proud that I could recognize the work of a famous artist. Later, when I finally saw one of his works in person, I FLIPPED! I was completely moved and inthralled. Welcome to the club! :) Er, ah, it’s not really a club.

  4. I think Ruthko’s paintings are enjoyable up close – in other words, prints and photos don’t give you the sensation of drowning in color that the oil paintings do. I’m not a fan of modern art, but I like Rothkos – in the flesh so to speak.

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