At the beginning of October, I visited the Columbia Museum of Art to see a retrospective of Mark Rothko paintings. While they had his famous square paintings, they had other pieces where he actually painted people and animals. Granted, Rothko did it in an abstract style, but you could still recognize them. His use of contorted bodies and color schemes called to mind of Francis Bacon and Paul Gauguin. Furthermore, Rothko took inspiration from Classical Mythology during this formative time. As I study Modern and Contemporary art in the Western art, I have noticed this love/hate relationship these eras have with the old Greek religion. On one hand, you have Futurists and Dadaists (while they never specifically attacked Greek myths, for they hated everything) rejecting art traditions. On the other, you have Rothko and Salvador Dali devoting paintings to Greek archetypes.
When I reached the section where they had his square paintings, I sat down to look at them. Whenever I gazed upon reproductions of his work in books or on websites, I have always felt cold to them. I know why he created them, and I appreciate his color schemes, but they still left me hollow. Now that I have seen them, I still feel the same way. I think I prefer his earlier work better. I do have an amusing anecdote. The museum situated two paintings across from each other, and they had glass coverings, which caused them to reflect each other. You could see a Rothko inside another Rothko painting.
They had other artists on display besides Rothko. Robert Motherwell, Morris Lewis, and Clyfford Still make their appearance as a way to flesh out what kind of scene these works came from. All in all, when I came to visit the retrospective, I did it only because I felt obligated as an art history major to see Rothko’s work in person. I do not regret it, for I am glad that I could judge them in person.