Mark Rothko   No. 12, 1960

This weekend’s visit to MOCA’s  (Museum of Contemporary Art) exceptional “First Thirty Years”  exhibit was an unusual treat in museum-going in that there was more than one piece in each gallery that had the power to challenge, provoke, emote, trigger, inspire, awe or perplex me. Additionally, this exhibit is rare in that almost every work has a small artist statement that accompanies it, a unique insight into the thoughts and feelings of the creators- something usually not presented in this way in a museum.

The piece that first moved me is pictured above. Perhaps simplistic and ordinary in its replicated digital image, it doesn’t have the ability of its live form to convey its interaction with the viewer.  It, for me, was the magnet in the room of five or so other color-form canvases by Mark Rothko that pulled me to it.   Enormous in size and rich in intense tones, No. 12, as it’s titled, drew me into it.  The dark block at the top is a vessel; it’s color and composition enabled me to travel into it.  That is artistic mastery.  Engulfed and momentarily sucked out of the gallery and into the black cavity, I went somewhere.  When I came back, I approached the I.D. on the wall to read this statement by the artist:

I paint large pictures because I want to create a state of intimacy.  A large picture is an immediate transaction; it takes you into it.

I was shocked to find written on the wall, almost verbatim, the words I myself had silently spoken. However, the power was not due solely to its size. It was much more than that.

I can’t say that his other paintings had the same effect on me.  Beautiful color, yes, yet they did not provoke a deeper connection like No. 12.

Writing this piece spurred me to read a bit about the life of Rothko, a very well-known Latvian born, American painter whose name is rarely not included among top 20th century painters. I, however, knew little about his background and found this brief background on Wikipedia quite fascinating.  There is almost always much more behind a painting than meets the eye.


~ by maureenmoore on March 8, 2010.

One Response to “No.12”

  1. Was there no “No. 31” that struck your fancy?! Happy, happy 31st birthday, Mo!

    Love, Auntie TFJ
    P.S. As to No. 12 and Rothko, thanks for the background; it does give me a deeper appreciation for the painter.

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