accidental rothkos

these days, i'd easily waste time sitting in front of my laptop. i often find myself being carried away by the us presidential election news, even though it’s nothing to do with me. i’m just a curious onlooker. i just can’t miss the great show, which is staged only every 4 years and, to me, is far more absorbing and extreme than any reality tv show or soap opera. it’s too funny to be true. we japanese can never imagine things like that, let alone our election campaign running that way, you know. that extremist side of america (like “the jerry springer show”?) sometimes blows me away, while american people’s high-carolific enthusiasm is something I envy as a person who lives in a low-key society.

the scene, where american presidential candidates, obama and mccain sharing light-hearted jokes, even if they were all scripted by clever speech writers, at the al smith dinner, made me more envious. our political world has no room for wit or wits at all. i’m now sort of addicted to oliver burkeman’s campaign diary. his live blog (i didn’t read it live, though), reporting on the final debate between the two, almost got me off my chair when he was pausing to suppose joe the plumber might be related to joe le taxi. at any rate, i seem to be way too much preoccupied with newspaper articles on the net. maybe, i’m just trying to erase disheartening news about the global recession with some cheering, or at least, interesting news, no?

so, here’s good news to know: in london lots of exiting art shows are going on. rothko at tate modern, for instance. oh, i wish i was in london. i loved the former rothko room housed in the tate gallery (now tate britain). its installation was done by late david silvester, who had a genius of installing paintings and preferred daylight to artificial light for art exhibitions, which i totally agree with him. regarding the rothko room, however, using daylight was mark rothko’s own idea. he suggested how to hang his works when he gave them free to tate gallery. looking at the seagram murals there in dim lighting could've possibly been a chance for anyone to get what the sublime should mean, even in the austere, sombre, rather parsimonious mood.

david sylvester once wrote the difference between viewing a painting in daylight and artificial light. he described: the difference is like making love with or without a condom. i totally understand that. i did admire the legendary curator for his intuitive art critiques, too. as you think, if we knew a bit of background information provided by critics or curators before our gallery visits, artworks there would become something more than a view, more like an experience. rothko’s anecdote about his seagram murals (he didn’t want them to be hung in that swanky manhattan restaurant) is a perfect example. you might be amused by the fact that his death (he killed himself) coincided with the delivery of those paintings to the tate by chance.

but, no sublime moment would be brought by words to you. after all, it’s a visual art. and physical experience is more important than preparation. that’s why i loved the way david sylvester hung all those paintings there. they were relocated to tate modern when it opened, and the room could never be the same, of course. although rothko is not among my most favourites, his work, at one point, could have changed my view on colours. i happened to find that beautiful colours didn’t have to be bright and striking. i can’t tell since exactly when, but i’ve been excessively attracted to subtle natural colours like sun-faded walls and rust on the surface of iron or steel quite a long time. i always find it divine.

so, whenever i’ve got a camera with me, wherever i come across (in london, madrid, palermo, granada, amsterdam … and even in richard serra’s sculptures) the shabby random beauty, i’d take photographs. in my mind, a rusty iron door and the image of rothko’s painting would be overlapping. i call them “accidental rothko”. because its beauty by born of coincidence resembles abstract expressionists’ work. as i’d trained myself to be a curator (during my london yba era) and been deeply involved with conceptual art, i still have a tendency to put artworks in some context. but when it comes to my accidental rothko, i can leave behind everything to appreciate its pure beauty. technically speaking, it’s not art, though.

i also found a good newspaper article about art on the net. it relates to a glitzy art fair, frieze (yes, i used to visit), being held now in london. the interviews with contemporary artists in the article lead readers to a discourse of the love-and-hate relationship between art and money. in the interview, gavin turk, who has participated in another art event, free art fair, running counter to frieze, questions “if a piece has no price, is it good value? if the work is free, is it art?” meanwhile, rothko, who eventually refused the lucrative commission to paint (he did, though) for the seagram, has been the 4th rank of last year’s 5 most expensive dead artists. i sometimes feel like leaving behind also this kind of money issue to see purely art.

anyway, i’m no longer in london. such art events seem to be a world away from me now. i miss my goldsmiths days of pondering “what is art?” day after day. but again, i could go and find my rothko anywhere. besides, i’m sorry to tell my friends who live in a cold climate, it’s sunny, it's still summer here. there are lots of art events going on in london but not nearly enough sunshine there, is it? when i had a late afternoon long walk in the park yesterday, it was still green, green, everywhere. naturally, some tree leaves, like cherry, are starting to fall or turn brown, yellow and burgundy, but only a little bit. as autumn approaches, rothko-colour-hunting must be a thing for me. i shouldn’t be sitting here too long.


vosgesparis said...

hello there ;)
I totally love your pictures of shabby random beauty, it is something I notice aswell ;) I am curious about what shabby stuff you noticed in Amsterdam (the first railwayish picture could have been made here ;)

kt said...


i took the pic from the window of the former amsterdam main post office when i visited the city art museum (?) temporarily housed in that building in 2005 before its relocation. i was working on a magazine article and the place was among marcel wanders's favourites. i really loved it there :)

kt xx