Monday, February 28, 2005

Mark Rothko as Double Verb 

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art yesterday with Alicia, Hassen, and Christina Strong. The three of them were in the gallery next door while I was sitting with the Rothko Orange, Red & Yellow. It's not my favorite Rothko, but it's what I've got in this town, right? And I don't hate it either, frankly, and am beginning -- more and more -- to be thankful it's the only one, so I can see it without the distraction of Rothko paintings I'd like better, easier. Left with the one I have never liked so much makes me see it in ways I would never be bothered otherwise.

But I was looking at it, how the three inner panels (or spheres of influence?) aren't so much graded in their mere size, but can be seen as equal. Equal spaces of time, depending on the speed you choose to fill your eyes with each sphere of influence.

But I was looking when the big fairy walked in. I like big fairies, and hope to be one when I grow up (not really, but maybe, but not really, but maybe). Anyway, he had this era about his aura, a sort of 1980 era aura, with his hat made of thick braids of yarn, and his diamond cut hiss. He was with a blond woman and they both looked like they were born and raised in Hollywood, or some other unreal place that sounds enchantingly annoying. But he started talking about Rothko to her, and then with her, both saying how much they dislike Rothko, and that all he is is rectangles in squares in rectangles, blah blah blah.

Really? And I had to talk of course, and it's one of those moments where you are confronted with having to define and defend at the same time, something you love very much, but no one has really challenged you quite so heavily. So it gives you the opportunity to dig it out of yourself, and it really pushes you ahead of yourself, and leaves you further along.

First I started talking about the room in the Tate Gallery in London, the room with all the Rothko paintings. I've been to London four times, and three of those times spent a long time sitting in that room. The fourth time the room was closed, and it kind of made me sick for a few days, and my friends wanted to know what was wrong, and I remember not being able to admit that I was depressed because the room was closed. And how I had thought about that room over and over, and on the plane ride across the ocean, and on the train through London, and the walk up the steps, only to have to rely on my memory.

My memory was put to work explaining the room, and it was the perfect direction for me to start, because it got me to describe the painting Red On Maroon, my favorite Rothko. It's the first painting I have ever seen where I can honestly say I finally understood the sincere smallness of being human in the massive scale of everything. Describing this painting yesterday is when I was finally able to SAY that Rothko was painting gateways. He was, and they are, years after his death, they are gateways, with long and marvelous passages on the other side, and it took being confrontational about the work to get it out.

The man and woman went off, and I started to write about the gateways, and now, more than ever, I want to see his paintings again. More of them. Have Rothko guided meditations, or just Rothko meditations, getting a dedicated group of us to SEE what the FUCK is on the other side of these gateways!

At the Tate, the room where his paintings are in is a shut room. You go in, and it's quiet. And you're there, and the long bench, and other people you wish would fuck off maybe, especially if they're talking, but it's a meditative experience in there regardless. The year I was the most solid in macrobiotics was the year I felt I actually got HIGH sitting in there, but it was probably too many umeboshi plums in my brown rice that morning.

Anyway, it was a nice breakthrough yesterday, and anyone reading this who wants to discuss Rothko, write me at CAConrad13@AOL.com


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