This is not a review of the Rothko exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum; a super event surely, advertised all over The Hague on a poster with the most attractive purple colour ever. This is a stream of thoughts by a painter, me, walking by the works of one of the best artists of the last century at least. The exhibition is so much museum minded, educational, a set up for the wide public, with the beginning, the middle and the end clearly marked and explained. It is not bad to use the language to guide; can’t imagine what the reaction would be if there were only the paintings standing there, calling to the chaos. I am not sure whether Rothko would have approved the exhibition, but then he is dead so long that his opinion is a relic for historians and archivists. His works on the other hand stand like space rocks on the walls, detached from the content of the room. We, the spectators, belong to the squared floor and the air above it while the paintings pulsate in present-infinity. They represent the rarely heard moment of tuning to the universe’s sound. Some of us feel that this tuning is what painting is about, just like music. Yet, it is rather improbable for anyone to weep in front of them in the company of at least thirty others in the room and the audio guides in hands and ears.
It is kind of odd this high-end presentation in between the produces of the creative industry (which of course has goggled up the myth and the money about Rothko too, no doubt). However, in the times of no-object art, this is a formidable reminder that painting is not some kind of trick, is not entertainment nor a description of anything, and certainly does not need words to go with it nor heavy meanings and references. By the way, painting does not need to be interactive either; standing contemplative in front of it should be enough.
Still, Rothko’s earlier works are amusing throwing into insignificance the charms of shape or texture: mucky, indelicate, incomprehensible just as observations of something not visible. Colour passes by quickly and then as the rooms darken to host the reds and the blacks, I align once more with his view, that red and black are not like the other colours. They are as far as it can be from being decorative or descriptive and therefore closer to the step beyond. Besides, once you’ve shifted towards them it needs a good dosage of insanity to help you get by; the emotional crack is unbearable. When you have a good hatch in reality to get back and forth, it can very well not be the end. But then again, talking about the self inflicted end; imagine, you have an ailing body, you’re working in loneliness for a spiritual experience in painting and then this is your destiny: you have rallied with a soup can and the soup can won (and in an extended time projection too).
It can also though be the accomplished life that allows the end.
“Silence is so accurate.” M.R.
Read also my article on Dutch Review Mark Rothko in The Hague
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