Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Irascible Mark Rothko in Arkansas

Today, I finally visited the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock to see the exhibit Mark Rothko in the 1940s: The Decisive Decade. After seeing my first Rothko at the Phoenix Art Museum years ago, I was mesmerized by his work and wanted to see more of it. So, when I discovered that the Arkansas Arts Center, only two hours away from Memphis, would have a Rothko exhibit, I knew that I had to go!

Before you reach the Rothko exhibit in the museum, there is another exhibit entitled Modern Art in America that hosted many pieces that had me drooling: among the pieces presented were Diego Rivera's Two Women, Paul Cezanne's Sous-Bois, Odilon Redon's Andromeda, Camille Pissarro's Kensington Gardens and Luigi Loir's L'ecole militare. I enjoyed viewing the works and tried to take my time through the initial exhibit yet I knew that Rothko awaited.

When I finally reached Rothko, I felt my mouth drop a couple of times as I stared at the strange pieces, wondering about the meaning behind them and then realizing that it did not matter. What mattered was that I enjoyed them all. I found that Rothko's pieces reminded me of dreams untold, emotions unheard of and words that had yet to be invented. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I stared at the paintings; I did not know if I felt the emotion Rothko had poured into the works or if the tears were simply my own response in the simplest form. Something that I found interesting while walking through the exhibit was the fact that Rothko was part of a group known as The Irascibles, a group of American abstract artists who rejected the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Painting Today - 1950 exhibit.

Some of the artists that were a part of this group were Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, poet Weldon Kees (one of my favourite poets!), Adolph Gottlieb, Hedda Sterne (the only woman in the group!) and others. Rothko is seated on the right in the first row.

As I walked through the exhibit a second time, I made note to read his quotes that were portrayed on the walls. Here are a couple:

"I quarrel with Surrealist and abstract art as only as one quarrels with his father and mother, recognizing the inevitability and function of my roots - I am both them and a new integral completely independent of them."

"If I must place my trust somewhere, I would insist it in the psyche of sensitive observers."

The work of Mark Rothko is bold and soft, tender and violent. The colours he chose were loud and striking yet he could make them a delicate as a feather. At times, I wanted to touch the paintings and feel the paint with my fingers yet I knew that I really did not want to spend a night in jail for the sake of art!

If you find yourself to be near or in Little Rock in the near future, do yourself a favour and go visit the exhibit!

A big thanks to the Arkansas Arts Center for hosting such an exhibit!

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