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  • Russ Ramsey

Mark Rothko and Learning to Love the Unfamiliar

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at the works of the Latvian Jewish / American abstract color field painter, Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz, otherwise known as Mark Rothko, and we’ll discuss learning to love the unfamiliar.

Rothko, No. 10, 1950


I first encountered Rothko online, seeing images of his work on my laptop screen, perhaps as you are doing right now. I didn’t get it at all. The Emperor didn’t seem to be wearing any clothes.

Rothko, No 1 (Royal Red and Blue), 1954


I told a friend I was going to The Met in New York City. She said, “You must go see the Rothko’s there.” I relayed my ambivalence about Rothko and she said, “No, you need to see them in person. They’re so moving.”

Rothko, Light Red Over Black, 1957


My friend said Rothko’s color fields stir the soul. So I went to The Met, found the Rothko room, and stood in front of “No. 13 (White, Red on Yellow)” (1958). Folks, I don’t know what to tell you, except that I was mesmerized, and I still don’t know why.

Rothko, No. 13 (White, Red on Yellow), 1958


If you spend time around art, you will encounter things you don’t get. You’ll see things and wonder why so many people love them. You’ll sometimes struggle to understand if what you’re looking at even qualifies as art.

Rothko, Black on Maroon 1958


In some cases that feeling will never go away. But every so often, if you allow yourself to set aside your prejudices, you may find yourself standing sin front of something that sneaks up on you and takes your breath away—as Rothko did with me.

Rothko, No. 14, 1960


You may never be able to explain why certain works of art stir something in your soul, but that’s part of the way art works. It creeps past our defenses and awakens something transcendent in us. It’s our hunger for glory.

Rothko, Orange Red Yellow, 1961


Thanks for following along today as we’ve gotten to know Rothko and perhaps learned to love the unfamiliar.

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