Mark Rothko revived at Penninsula Library in Lawrence, NY

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Mark Rothko 1903-1970

Catchy title. I thought it would get your attention.  Yes, Mark  Rothko made an appearance. Sure it was on the screen of projected images, but just the same, he was the focus of attention at the Peninsula Library’s Lecture by the brilliant and entertaining Professor Thomas Germano of SUNY- Farmingdale. Mark Rothko’s art in print and on the screen do nothing for me, and then I remembered my experiences in England and in New York City, when I was in a room of his paintings and the vibration of the color and the ascendant way I felt was the effect and it worked. It had elicited an emotional and mood response.  One must be exposed to the actual paintings and murals to be moved by them. Reproduction doesn’t elicit the same response. At least,  that is the case for me. I assume it is the same for others. Professor Germano spoke about the background, influences and stages of Rothko’s development as an artist(from figurative, to abstract surrealistic/Fauvism, to abstract expressionism, to color-field painting), and lastly about his tragic suicide. The suicide as described seemed to me to be a statement, a last artistic expression, having gutted himself  in his studio after heavy drinking he opened himself up like a jar of sanguine paint and  spread it all over. The color of life and death, the color of his life. The end of his life reduced to the color of the fluid (like paint) that gave him life (and colored his experience) and ended with his death. The canvas of his existence was colored a burgundy red. I suggested maybe it was such a statement to Professor Germano and I think I startled him.Perhaps I seemed cold, I suppose to assess his depression and fear of death by a condition that Professor Germano said wasn’t really as bad as Rothko thought. It reminded me of Robin Williams who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and fearing the worst, took his own life. What if there was a cure before he would decline significantly?  ‘What ifs’ swirl in my imaginative mind, about Mark Rothko.

I was not a fan of Rothko’s, seeing his simplicity as a cop-out. I needed to learn about the evolution of his style and that is what I got. Sometimes it is important to keep an open mind to subjecting oneself to the unpleasant in order to gain insight and appreciate it in its differentness from what one prefers in artistic expression. Even though the minimalistic paintings are the most salable and most valuable at auction, I prefer the artist’s earlier abstract expressionism over the later color-field paintings. Even with this acknowledgment, I was riveted at the edge of my seat.  Thomas Germano is the ultimate art historian/lecturer and I wish I could attend his classes on the college level. Maybe I will as an senior citizen auditor soon enough.  He’s wonderful and I urge any and everyone who loves art to attend his lectures.

Click here or on links above for biographical information: Mark Rothko bio

Professor Germano at Peninsula Library lecture about Mark Rothko, Aug. 28, 2017
Earlier subway series painting by Rothko; there is one at the Nassau County Museum of Art on exhibit in the New York New York show.
An earlier abstract expressionist painting by Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko’s “abstract expressionism” as identifier has been more accurately re-named “Color-field” paintings.

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