The most distinct quality of art is its capacity to move you. I recently took a short trip from the office, to the Pace Gallery, to view the minimalist dark sectional paintings of Mark Rothko. The exhibition, Rothko: Dark Palette, focuses on Rothko’s work from 1955 and into the 1960’s, where the artist made a turn from bright and optimistic flourishes of color, into deep, intensely dark moody tones. Rothko’s deceptively simple usage of color, carefully arranged in bold block-like sections, capture profoundly intimate and raw emotional states. Like stolen vignettes of time, each painting carries the power of locking the viewer in a singular emotionally-charged moment. And quite ahead of his time, Rothko’s intuitive sense of aesthetics, inspired countless contemporary artists and designers, who were able to see the real emotional power of art stripped down to its barest of forms.
Rothko’s minimalistic approach to art, was deeply influenced by his personal experiences. Born in 1903 to Russian-Jewish parents in Dvinsk (now, Daugavpils, in southeastern Latvia), he and his family immigrated to Portland Oregon when he was 10 years old. He began making art at an early age, fascinated by children’s art, primitivism, and mythological images. It was not until after the events of WWII, and after reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Birth of Tragedy,” did Rothko’s renowned style completely come into its own. Rothko believed that the goal of art was to relieve man’s spiritual emptiness. He believed that his multiform paintings, which solely relied on form, space, and color, were capable of freeing unconscious energies previously liberated by mythological symbols, and rituals. After the war, he ceased naming his paintings, instead only referring to them by number.
“Dark Palette” reflects Rothko’s change of palette in 1955, that was sustained through the 1960’s, where his use of color shifted into deep, intensely dark, moody tones. Rothko believed in the importance of art in transforming tragedy and tragic themes into moments of profound beauty. As I walked through the various rooms of very large paintings, I could feel the intimate presence of an artist, who believed that the viewer should stand no farther than 18 inches away from his paintings, and that they should be “enveloped.” The grandiosity of scale in his paintings, in contrast to pomposity, Rothko believed, furthered the possibility of emphasizing our personal experience of intimacy, awe, and the transcendence of our own sense of the unknown. Flat forms, Rothko believed, destroy illusions and reveal truth.
Rothko taught us how we can strip the emotional experience and art down to its rawest and primitive form, and produce an experience more intimately powerful than one derived from any extra kind of embellishment. His bold use of flat forms, austere minimalism, and intense use of color expresses the foundation of modern 21st Century design. The clarity of vision, captured within Rothko’s multiform paintings, indicates the timelessness and universality of modernism, and its capacity to emotionally stir and inspire our generation, and many more to come.
Posted by Robyn, Wobi Office Content Coordinator 1.30.17. At Wobi Office We find inspiration for our line of quality office chairs from a wide variety of sources.