Rothko’s deep darkness

Ключевые слова: Mark Rothko, abstract expressionism, apophatic theology, sacred space, Rothko Chapel, art and religion, Bible

Аннотация

The paintings of artist, Mark Rothko (1903–1970), are considered in their religious dimension. The essay pursues the significance of Rothko’s words and works by moving from biographies and Rothko’s own writings to sites Rothko purportedly loved (e.g., Fra Angelico’s paintings at San Marco in Florence, Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello in Venice, Matisse’s Red Studio at the Museum of Modern Art). Moreover, the essay seeks to illuminate insight into the meaning of Rothko’s luminous panels (considering the artist’s claim to “paint reality”), and the reasoning behind his idiosyncratic instructions for installing his works low to the ground and in groups. The context of the Rothko Chapel (Houston, Texas) is also considered. Rothko’s Jewish heritage and education recall the “luminous cloud” of the Hebrew Bible, while his love for San Marco and Torcello evoke the all-encompassing beauty of Orthodox sacred spaces. Perhaps in these images Rothko saw glimpses of the reality he sought to paint and discovered a way to display his work and communicate its reality most effectively

Биография автора

R. Green Ahmanson, Fieldstead and Company

DOI: https://doi.org/10.34680/vistheo-2023-5-1-115-125

Roberta Green Ahmanson
Fieldstead and Company, Irvine (CA), USA
fieldstead@nonnobis.com
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0009-0007-5313-7050

Abstract
The paintings of artist, Mark Rothko (1903–1970), are considered in their religious dimension. The essay pursues the significance of Rothko’s words and works by moving from biographies and Rothko’s own writings to sites Rothko purportedly loved (e.g., Fra Angelico’s paintings at San Marco in Florence, Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello in Venice, Matisse’s Red Studio at the Museum of Modern Art). Moreover, the essay seeks to illuminate insight into the meaning of Rothko’s luminous panels (considering the artist’s claim to “paint reality”), and the reasoning behind his idiosyncratic instructions for installing his works low to the ground and in groups. The context of the Rothko Chapel (Houston, Texas) is also considered. Rothko’s Jewish heritage and education recall the “luminous cloud” of the Hebrew Bible, while his love for San Marco and Torcello evoke the all-encompassing beauty of Orthodox sacred spaces. Perhaps in these images Rothko saw glimpses of the reality he sought to paint and discovered a way to display his work and communicate its reality most effectively.

Keywords: Mark Rothko, abstract expressionism, apophatic theology, sacred space, Rothko Chapel, art and religion, Bible

References

Ashton 2003 – Ashton D. About Rothko. Cambridge, 2003.

Breslin 1993 – Breslin J. E. B. Mark Rothko: A Biography. Chicago & London, 1993.

Cohen-Solal 2015 – Cohen-Solal A. Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel. New Haven, 2015.

Frost 1979 – The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged. New York, 1979.

Lidov 2006 – Lidov A. Hierotopy. The Creation of Sacred Space as a Form of Creativity and Subject of Cultural History. Hierotopy. Creation of Sacred Spaces in Byzantium and Medieval Russia.
Ed. by A. Lidov. Moscow, 2006. Pp. 33–58.

Myers 2024 – Myers D. N. A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Jewish Writer: Mark Rothko’s Hebrew Notebooks. Revisiting the Rothko Chapel. [Forthcoming collection of essays]. Ed. by Aaron Rosen. Brepols, 2024.

Rothko 2006 – Rothko M. Writings on Art. Mark Rothko.
Ed. by Miguel Lopez-Remiro. New Haven, 2006.

About author

Roberta Green Ahmanson
Writer, Art Collector, Philanthropist
Fieldstead and Company
P.O. Box 19599, Irvine (CA), 92623, United States
E-mail: fieldstead@nonnobis.com

For citation:
Green Ahmanson R. Rothko’s deep darkness. Journal of Visual Theology. 2023. Vol. 5. 1. Pp. 115–125. https://doi.org/10.34680/vistheo-2023-5-1-115-125

Опубликован
2023-06-28
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