“Organisms with a passion for self-assertion 1946”: This was how Rothko described his forms, which became independent once the artist had finished the picture. Rothko gave his plastic objects the properties of a living being and thus made them bearers of meaning for basic human emotions: “I will say without reservations that from my point of view there can be no abstractions. Any shape or area that has not the pulsating concreteness of real flesh and bones, its vulnerability to pleasure or pain is nothing at all. Any picture that does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn does not interest me....* Mark Rothko. Pictures as Drama, p. 45.
“The Ides of art: the attitudes of ten artists on their art and Contemporaneousness, 1947”: A painting lives in company, expanding and brightening before the eyes of a sensitive observer. It dies in the same way. So it is a risky business to send a picture out into the world. How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling and the cruelty of the impotent who could extend their affliction universally!... * Mark Rothko. Writings on Art, p. 99.
“Space in Painting, ca. 1954”: It occurs to me in our discussion of space that it would be profitable to use synonyms which are more concrete in subjective attributes, as for example 'depth' for the experience of depth is an experience of penetration into layers of things more and more distant. Again, referring to the subjective elements, when we wish to express concretely an image of intensity of feeling, for instance, we say 'depth of feeling', or when we talk about penetration into knowledge we say 'revelation', which means the removal of veils, which is the coming out of a depth into the frontal understanding, or the unfolding of veils which have obscured what is behind them. I say that all of these are manners of expressing our dependence upon the sensations of things being closer and farther for the purpose of establishing a real relationship. Therefore, in the terms of the desire for the frontal, for the unveiled, for the experienced surface, I would say that my pictures have space. That is in the expression of making clear the obscure or metaphysically of making close the remote in order to bring it into the order of my human and intimate understanding. What I have always responded to in paintings is the clarity of such handling, no matter what the period or subject. Here, says the painter, is of what my world is composed: a quantity of sky, a quantity of earth, and a quantity of animation. And he lays them out on the table for me to observe at the same distance, to hold in the palm of my understanding without editorship, the desires and fears and aspirations of animated spirit. *Mark Rothko. Writings on Art, pp. 166 and 167.
“My art is not abstract; it lives and breathes 1958”: ...I am not interested in the relationship of colour or form or anything else. I am interested only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on — and the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions... The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience that I had when I painted them... * Mark Rothko. Pictures as Drama, p. 57.
“Given at the Pratt Institute, November 1958”: ...I would like to talk about painting a picture. I have never thought that painting a picture has anything to do with self-expression. It is a communication about the world to someone else. After the world is convinced about this communication, it changes. The world was never the same after Picasso or Miró. Theirs was a view of the world which transformed our vision of things. All teaching about self-expression is erroneous in art; it has to do with therapy. Knowing yourself is valuable so that the self can be removed from the process. I emphasize this because there is an idea that the process of self-expression itself has many values. But producing a work of art is another thing and I speak of art as a trade. I belong to a generation that was preoccupied with the human figure and I studied it. It was with the utmost reluctance that I found that it did not meet my needs. Whoever used it mutilated it. No one could paint the figure as it was and feel that he could produce something that could express the world. I refuse to mutilate and had to find another way of expression. I used mythology for a while, substituting various creatures who were able to make intense gestures without embarrassment. I began to use morphological forms in order to paint gestures that I could not make people do. But this was unsatisfactory. My current pictures are involved with the scale of human feelings, the human drama, as much of it as I can express...* Mark Rothko. Writings on Art, pp. 182 and 184.
“Notecards, ca. 1950-1960”: Colour: addition to experienced colour and space. Once colour is out of the paint can, it is seen in the world of human action in relation to the time and the event of the day and the eyes for whom the time and events occur. I use colours that have already been experienced through the light of day and through the state of mind of the total man. In other words, my colours are not colours that are laboratory tools which are isolated from all accidentals or impurities so that they have a specified identity or purity. When I say: When I say that my paintings are Western, what I mean is that they seek the concretization of no state that is without the limits of western reason, no esoteric, extra-sensory or divine attributes to be achieved by prayer and terror. Those who can claim that these limits are exceeded are exhibiting self-imposed limitations as to the tensile limits of the imagination within those limits. In other words, that there is no yearning in these paintings for Paradise, or divination. On the contrary they are deeply involved in the possibility of ordinary humanity. Space: From that point of view, that is from the largest and concrete meaning that such words have for us in an unspecialized use, that is in its roughest and most general use in the vernacular (and it is only in the vernacular, it seems to me, that words have their real meaning), the word space is correct. As pertaining to my pictures, or rather in the terms of pictorial space, the words seem to me be inaccurate and misleading. For the meaning that the word has in the discussion of pictures is that of a medium either realistically or symbolically indicated in which the drama of volume or motion or both take place...
* Mark Rothko. Writings on Art, pp. 203 and 204.

Jacob Baal-Teshuva. Mark Rothko. Pictures as Drama. Ed. Taschen. Madrid. 2009 Miguel López-Remiro. Mark Rothko. Writing on Art (1934-1969). Ed. Paidós estética 41. Barcelona 2007. BBC/RM associates co-production. Rothko’s Rooms. The Life and Works of an American Artist. Kultur. 2000. www.nga.gov/feature/rothko/


MARK ROTHKO.1903-1970
294*232,4. Oil on canvas