Friday, October 10, 2014

Modern Art (pt. 20)

Rothko's Blue and Gray from 1962 is another example of minimalistic color field abstraction in Modern Art paintings.  This is simply blue and grey, and that's it.  There's no subject matter, no story, no likeness to reality, no shapes, no intelligibility whatsoever.  We're just meant to observe the colors and paint on the canvas and absorb that without the distracting entities of subject matter, structure, form, shape, and theme.  In a way, then, it's perhaps one of the truest manifestations of art in all of art history.  If Manet had, a hundred years earlier, sought to rid his paintings of all pretext for illusion and deception and create artwork that admitted sincere awareness of its own two-dimensional medium, then Mark Rothko's color painting series breaks down all formalities of false perspective and artistic realism.  This is merely a painting and professes to be nothing more.  We see colors but no image; we see a painting, but no subject.  Art has rarely ever typified itself so directly.
These meditations on color offer in perfect distillation the same qualities which art has always carried to viewers: simple paint on a canvas.  But rather than the distracting subject matter, here we have a chance to look at art eye-to-eye, seeing only the color and the paint (even the "shapes" in these works are indistinct).  Though abstract and often not readily accessible to the public, these works nonetheless provide viewers with the most elementary essentials of art and beg the question not only of what it could mean unto itself, but what all of the rest of art means in light of the same fundamental revelation: that, in reality, all art is comparable to this, boiled down to this, and in fact is simply this.  It's all just colors and shapes, folks.

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