Rothko and the Golden Light of Autumn

Fall has always been my favorite season. I love the cooler air, turning crisp like the perfect apple. Summer’s soft light becomes crystaline, objects look sharper, distances closer. Everything comes into clear focus. You can almost see the space between things. The reds yellows and oranges of turning and falling leaves bathes the world in a warm glow. “Then summer fades and passes and October comes. We’ll smell smoke then, feel an unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure.” ( Thomas Wolfe. ) I think also, at this time of year, of Mark Rothko,and the shimmering glow, the majestic silence, and the profound emotional resonance of his canvases. And, in the case of these particular ones, of Fall.

Early on, Rothko, like so many of his time, was influenced by the German Expressionists and Surrealists. But Rothko gradually moved away from using symbols and representational elements, into his unique colorfields, which crtitics called, “multiforms.” His interest from the beginning, was in creating mythological images that created a wordless, correlative that capsulized the most profound realms of the human experience. Rothko wanted to ” free the unconscious energies previously liberated by mythological images, symbols, and rituals.” He said, “The exhilarated tragic experience, is for me the only source of art.” He wanted to fill the spiritual void in modern life, that could no longer effectively use specific myhtological narrative or images to convey real feeling. In his own words, ” I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form, or anyhting else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on…The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures, shows that I can communicate these basic human emotions…The people who weep before my pictires are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are only moved by their color relationships, then you miss the point.”

Color in Rothko’s work, radiates in a way that creates vast reaches of space, time, and mood. I always find them like windows to another, more spiritual plane. They transmute, somehow, this world into a place of prayer.

As fall fades into winter, where the interior glow of the world  starts to sleep, and a darker stillness, the flatter light of hibernation reigns. But the life force is not extinquished. Silence reigns, and Rothko is always there to illuminate every season.


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26 Comments on "Rothko and the Golden Light of Autumn"

  1. Carolina says:

    Wonderful pictures, great blog. Thanks!

  2. Sarah says:

    Is it really, really bad taste to want to make a hooked rag rug based on a Rothko painting?
    Please tell me it isn’t.

  3. Thank you for the article. When I stand in front of a Rothko painting I can feel my cells vibrating. There is such resonance pouring out of his canvases…a supersonic sound.

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Sculptor, painter, poet. Currently living in Los Angeles and Martha's Vineyard