Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rothko & Mozart - escapes into art


The current Rothko exhibit in Tel Aviv's Museum of Art hit me hard in the gut. The press notices should have prepared me for the impact of intense colour and stripped-down form of his paintings, so familiar from art history textbooks and reproduction posters. But in person, they seemed almost overpowering.
This show traced the evolution of Mark Rothko's work, including some early figurative paintings like the demon goddess of the night, Lilith, shown below.


(Another artful and powerful Queen of the Night came calling in the flesh in the Occupied Territories. She appeared in the Magic Flute, one of the pieces performed by the touring Choir of London for a Palestine Mozart Festival which lasted two weeks. Enraptured Palestinian kids from refugee camps would clamber on stage to join the cast for an intimate curtain call. The moment seemed enchanted. Sadly, four of the participating Palestinian musicians missed the final performance in East Jerusalem because their permits were denied and Israeli guards would not let them cross the checkpoint. But I digress).

It was the purely abstract works of Rothko that took my breath away in Tel Aviv. Fuzzy edges of vibrant solid hues mark off entities that enhance one another, never quite touching. Somehow it evoked a coexistence which is vibrant and distinct. If only the lifestyle equivalent could be pulled off in this part of the world,life imitating art would really be something to sing about.
As I left the exhibit, a saw a guard wrest away the mobile phone from a museum-goer who had been surreptitiously snapping all the Rothko paintings. He deleted the tiny images one by one as the photographer scowled, then sulked. It was like a performance artist playing a bully.

3 comments:

paul plastique said...

Dunno how you can be touched by those big splashy paintings. I suppose Izzy gasps at Howard Hodgkin as well. (Hard to tell the diff between his canvases and a microscopic slide of cells with Hodgkin's disease.)
Is art a distraction or a necessity in a tense place like Israel?

Anonymous said...

Don't have the faintest about what you are rambling about.

Yasmina said...

The Mozart concerts started out with political undertone at the beginning of the performance; but by the end of the tour, the music was enough. That was the new normality. In a tense place like the West Bank, yes, art is a necessity, not a distraction, if we are to keep our humanity.