On a day like today, 112 years ago, a little baby boy named Markus Yakovlevich Rotkovich was brought into the world. That little Rotkovich would go on to drop a few extra syllables in his name and become one of the most beloved artists of all time.
Mark Rothko is known, of course, for his majestic color field paintings, made from intense and restless swaths of color that hover above the frame. The squares of pigment, lacking depth, shadow, fully formed contours, and other distinguishing features, loom instead like a mirage. The shapes bleed and breathe, evoking feelings, memories and sometimes spiritual possession. Through particular combinations of electric oranges and frazzled violets, swamp-heavy greens and weightless whites, Rothko attempted to visualize the infinite. The eternal. His works do not depict an image; they convey the imperceptible.
But, what if they didn't? What if we got Rothko all wrong? What if his paintings were not attempts to lure the viewer into a hallucinatory union with the impenetrable beyond, but, just, abstract renderings of everyday people, places and things? In honor of the late abstract artist's day of birth, we're imagining some possible alternate readings of Rothko's greatest hits.
In an alternate reality, Rothko's artist statements may look something like these. Don't take it personally, Rothko. We love you. Happy birthday and thank you for your work.
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