Wednesday, April 7, 2010


(Mark Rothko, Orange and Yellow, 1956, about 6 feet x 7.5 feet (big))

The over-press about the play “Red” is such that I really know I don’t want to see it. But I have a lot to say about it nonetheless. For one, there’s a common idea that art is very serious and profound and that therefore you should engage with art because it’s good for you. The gist seems to be that once you get your culture over with, you’ve earned the shopping spree or banana split.

Of course I do think art can be very serious and profound. But that’s a second layer. That’s a bonus. What tends to be forgotten is that looking can be a pleasure (even if it’s a painful pleasure); it can expand your outlook and it can be deeply stimulating. But looking takes practice and confidence - am I seeing the right thing? - in other words, looking implies a building up of visual literacy. And boy is that a dying value.

I’ve always been drawn to Rothko first and foremost because of the wordless moods and deep color of his paintings, not because he was depressed, or articulate, although the former feeds a myth I enjoy and the latter is helpful.

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