Professionalism as Ending

I know that the previous post ended on an apparent contradiction. Rothko’s mature and characteristic  work certainly looks strong in comparison to what preceded it—simplified, clarified, professionalized and rationalized, but it’s no longer an origin, more a conclusion. The way that Rothko transformed his work is almost a model for how accomplished and major art is supposed to look, the more remarkable that such a standard had yet to be established. Or you might say that Rothko, Newman, Motherwell and Pollock brought that about. The professional standard today, certainly for painting, is that art should be large and with simple forms, consistent but varied within limits, easily reducible to an idea but ambiguous enough to enable many interpretations, and technically transparent. But originality of this kind is not sufficient to be an origin, at least not in Rothko. Pollock still had beginnings, right up to the end. Harry Cooper sees Rothko start in the primal soup, but he ended up in the bog of aesthetic satisfactions. I apologize to my readers for such curmudgeonly remarks. These works do give me pleasure, I just think there are better pleasures to be had. Briony Fer’s discussion of late Rothko, in The Infinite Line, is very good and gets closer to the essential drama than I.


Mark Rothko, No. 61 (Rust and Blue) 1953

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