Friday, August 12, 2022

Mark Rothko Lists the Ingredients of Art

Mark Rothko:

The recipe of a work of art – its ingredients – how to make it – the formula.

  1. There must be a clear preoccupation with death – intimations of mortality. Tragic art, romantic art, etc. deals with the knowledge of death.
  2. Sensuality. Our basis of being concrete about the world. It is a lustful relationship to things that exist.
  3. Tension. Either conflict or curbed desire.
  4. Irony. This is the modern ingredient – the self-effacement and examination by which a man for an instant can go on to something else.
  5. Wit and play . . . for the human element.
  6. The ephemeral and chance . . . for the human element.
  7. Hope. 10% to make the tragic concept more endurable.

I measure these ingredients very carefully when I paint a picture. It is always the form that follows these elements and the pciture results from the porportions of these elements.

From Daily Rothko


Shadow said...

So that's how he finds the inspiration to draw those magnificent rectangles!

Imagine being a Rothko expert and having to determine if one of his paintings, let's say it's the one you posted, is a forgery.

Thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

A perfect illustration of how, when there was less and less on the canvas, there were more and more words on the page.

Katya said...

I’m not sure I agree with the “wordiness” slight here—Rothko’s using straightforward, simple language, and described some pretty straightforward concepts that… it’s pretty easy to imagine why they’d be worthy of considering as one moved paint out of tubes or jars onto a prepared surface.

And the comment about Rothko fakes—take a moment and think about the act of applying crushed powder pigment, suspended in a mixture of oil (or acrylic) and applied to a large prepared canvas or other surface with some sort of extender, or multiple extenders, mixed in. Even before one starts considering brush strokes, or “working order,” there’s going to be a known inventory of paint products that a modern artist like Rothko used, and probably even receipts showing the actual brands and pigments he was working with in his studio in many of his active painting years.

The fields of color Rothko painted weren’t the first idea the man came up with straight out of art school.

It is harder to apply paint in a consistent way across any canvas larger than, say, 36” x 36” (or 1 meter square). Go that big or bigger, and I am sure that many, many obvious points of inconsistency would show almost at once to say “Really, this just wasn’t a way that Rothko would have done this.”