Monday, 12 October 2009

Mark Rothko: Loosening Your Grip

Mark Rothko, Black on Maroon, Mural, Section 3, 1959
Tate © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London

Tate Liverpool have collected together Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals again, 21 years after they helped open the gallery. I spent years wanting to like Rothko more than I actually did and it took seeing some of these colossal works at Tate Modern to truly understand his appeal. When a large Rothko fills your field of vision, all sense of perspective is lost. Appreciating his work requires you to let go momentarily, to loosen your grip. Most of my photographs focus on life's little details and I love that there is something so overwhelming out there to counterbalance that.

And with Anish Kapoor's retrospective and Miroslaw Balka's How It Is both opening recently and featuring similar attempts to immerse the viewer in three-dimensional colour fields (Kapoor with an indented canary-yellow cone; Balka with a room filled with darkness), you can't help but think that the notoriously depressive artist might just have cracked a smile from his great studio in the sky.

Left: Alexander Liberman, Rothko in his Studio, New York, 1964. © J. Paul Getty Trust

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