Rothko's Abstract Transcendence

Patrick Hussey
Dec 18, 2012 2:55PM
Aeon recently published an essay by critic Emma Crichton Miller on the painting as portal. To where? Well...that was the question. The sublime perhaps? You can read it on the link below.

At the Altar...

It explored the religiosity art can provoke and included some earnest and rather lovely Rothko quotes that mapped out his headlong journey towards emotional honesty through abstraction. 

Rothko saw his increasingly abstracted art as an attempt to overcome this melancholy: ‘I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational. It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one’s arms again.’

‘Without monsters and gods, art cannot enact our drama: art’s most profound moments express this frustration. When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy.’ 

The final quote shows he was sensitive to accusations of being a mere colorist.

‘I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on, and the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions.... The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!’

Patrick Hussey
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019