For those not familiar, Rothko's Seagram murals were painted in the late 50s on enormous canvases. He said of the large paining: "I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however...is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon it with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command." Interestingly, at least for me, was that I found myself in these Seagram murals. A visceral and very real somatic response occurred as I walked into the Tate Modern in early 2009.
My book creates intersections between
- color: Rothko's red/maroon; my skin
- borders: Rothko's bricked-in windows/frames; my cultural borders, and
- movement: experiencing several of Rothko's murals in an exhibit gives the feeling of traveling a frieze; my border crossing between my mother's culture and my father's, between the States and Japan and the UK---motion sickness quite literally and figuratively as cultural border crossing leaves one unstable.
I won't be so corny as to insist that the eyes are the window to the soul. But if we take Rothko's windows---the framed red on black, black on maroon, make-one-feel-trapped-in-a-room-where-all-the-doors-and-windows-are-bricked-up---and we think about how a window functions: a transparent opening for display, observation, interval. Then it seems quite eerie that the murals arrived at the Tate in 1970 on the morning of Rothko's suicide.
These windows are sad, electric passages. They are tumultuous, unstable portals. They are joyous, vibrant conduits that allow ingress and egress---to places where one is indeed very intimate and very human with the self.