January 28, 2009

Four Seasons of Red

Spring: You can always write at a museum--14 and half pages in my brand new unlined notebook (red cover with the Chinese symbol for "dancing ink") while in the Rothko exhibit at the Tate Modern. See, purple ink! -->

As I enter the room, I read: "to give this space." And I think... Are their limitations even within that?

Summer: We hover by the entryway or back up against the wall in this small room (# 2), a kind of police lineup, where Rothko's work examines us. You, young gentleman in the houndstooth, step forward. You, woman with beautiful black hair flipped over, move back. The threshold becomes a seam to enter the "inner light." We are told that Rothko's palette begins to darken in his later years, in this series. I see color fields. I leave the room and find a model made of construction paper on a pedestal in the center of the room. I like the way crayon allows one to scribble. These are drafts in a way, sketches that lead to art, and yet they are art in and of themselves. 

Autumn: When I enter room 3, which holds about 14 large-scale Seagram murals, I feel faint and chilled. A sadness comes over my body, as if tears could follow shortly. The space is enormous, and some of the murals are held above my head. That is, I have to lean back and look up to examine them. There are numerous people, but I am quite alone. Isolated. Connectionless. Is this the intimacy Rothko intended? Intimacy with the self?

The pamphlet states that "at [the] heart [of these pieces] are strategies of repetition and variation on a theme." Rothko writes that "if a thing is worth doing once, it is worth doing over and over again." The idea of repetition and variation makes me think of Stein, of course. Variation on a theme, repetition in that each moment creates a new one. Nothing is stagnant or still. Cinematic movement. When one sees red on maroon on maroon on black and red over black on maroon, suddenly orange and purple and brown emerge. When I look at a square inside a square or inside a rectangle or rectangles inside a square, suddenly I see electrical outlets and old-fashion heating radiators.

Soft edges, blurry. Like water damage rings or something. Water damage is everywhere, I think. Read read red. Read red rose, red prose. Read wound or invisible window with drapes that swag. 

Someone takes a clandestine picture.

More chills. Coolness around the neck, beneath the scarf.

I am that dot of paint. No shadow. No figure in the window. The light in here is dim.

Winter: Black on black on black. Light, distance, and time determine how we see color. Rothko moves away from his blurred edges, and surfaces begin to feel flat. The field is shortened. No back/fore/or middleground. I would say horizons emerge, but there is no depth to grasp that kind of distance. I decelerate to see contrast, otherwise resemblance appears. This black absorbs, no reflects and absorbs light. If I cannot find a seam, how can I document it? And so I must move closer and farther away in order to see. When does a shade of black become grey?

White encloses brown and grey, and I wonder what does it mean to border the borders? A border (of the skin variety or the land dispute variety) is not clean, like when one removes painter's tape--one can see how the color seeps under, color that the brush forced in. 

I, in dissonant quartet.