It is the poet and philosopher who provide the community of objectives in which the artist participates. Their chief preoccupation, like the artist, is the expression in concrete form of their notions of reality. Like him, they deal with the verities of time and space, life and death, and the heights of exaltation as well as the depths of despair. The preoccupation with these eternal problems creates a common ground which transcends the disparity in the means used to achieve them.
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The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions.. the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are moved only by their color relationships then you miss the point.
It is really one of the most serious faults which can be found with the whole conception of democracy, that its cultural function must move on the basis of the common denominator. Such a point of view indeed would make a mess of all of the values which we have developed for examining works of art. It would address one end of education in that it would consider that culture which was available to everyone, but in that achievement it would eliminate culture itself. This is surely the death of all thought. This quote is taken from "The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art" by Mark Rothko, written 1940-1 and published posthumously in 2004 by Yale University Press, pp.126-7.
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From him I got my love for music, and for many years I was the classical music critic for magazines that have since folded, such as Musical America and High Fidelity. During the last year of his life, I would come to the studio, and he would arrange a corner for me with a canvas and paints. I don't think that I saw him paint. He didn't allow anyone to watch him. That was his own private affair.
I will say without reservations that from my point of view there can be no abstractions. Any shape or area that has not the pulsating concreteness of real flesh and bones, its vulnerability to pleasure or pain is nothing at all. Any picture that does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn does not interest me.
We are concerned with similar states of consciousness and relationship to the world.. ..If previous abstractions paralleled the scientific and objective preoccupations of our times, ours are finding a pictoral equivalent for man's new knowledge and consciousness of his more complex inner self.
The myth holds us, therefore, not through its romantic flavor, not the remembrance of beauty of some bygone age, not through the possibilities of fantasy, but because it expresses to us something real and existing in ourselves, as it was to those who first stumbled upon the symbols to give them life.
When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing. No galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Yet, it was a golden age, for we all had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large I shall not venture to discuss. But I do know, that many of those who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where we can root and grow. We must all hope we find them.
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I use colors that have already been experienced through the light of day and through the state of mind of the total man. In other words, my colors are not colors that are laboratory tools which are isolated from all accidentals or impurities so that they have a specified identity or purity.
The reason for my painting large canvases is that I want to be intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command.