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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading Rothko - Reading Art History and Practice
This book by the artist Mark Rothko is a highly considered, individual quest to understand the place and development, of art in modern society. Written in 1941, the text is linguistically dated, and some of the arguments are light on depth, but in many ways the editorial choice "not to change the language of the book" adds to the enjoyment of engaging directly with...
Published on 1 Aug 2007 by Stephen Pratt

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard Work and Obscure if you Don't Already Know the Subject
Rothko is not an easy painter to understand. The works for which he is most famous are huge, dense slabs of art at its most abstract, and some would say profound. Contemplation over long periods of time is one of the only ways to really get to know this work, and the book operates in much the same milieu. The most useful part of this book is the preface and...
Published on 28 Oct 2007 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading Rothko - Reading Art History and Practice, 1 Aug 2007
By 
Stephen Pratt "scruffy artist" (Tornio, Finland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Paperback)
This book by the artist Mark Rothko is a highly considered, individual quest to understand the place and development, of art in modern society. Written in 1941, the text is linguistically dated, and some of the arguments are light on depth, but in many ways the editorial choice "not to change the language of the book" adds to the enjoyment of engaging directly with Rothko's thoughts.

The manuscript was lost for two decades; consequently this is a rare account of a philosophy of art from the viewpoint of a practising artist at a pivotal moment in western art history.

Reading Rothko alongside Ad Reinhardt's `Art as Art' one has the impression that they are diametrically opposed in thought and reasoning. Reinhardt exposes the dogma and "false claims" in art, whilst Rothko sees art as "an essential form of (social) action."

An important element of this book is the historical search for a "unified single truth" which Rothko believes has led to a duality between understanding and reality (subject and object). This separation has created an "inadequacy of representation"; a perspective which brings about at best a "generalisation" in art.

For Rothko reality is in the engagement with what he calls "plastic materials" of how an object looks or feels and to this extent it is a subjective process - a form of "generalization". It is the working of the "plastic elements" in art that provides a bridge between the object and the subjective understanding of that object.

With this in mind, it's possible that the author was at least theoretically preparing himself for the reductive radicalism that lay ahead in his later paintings. As hidden within this quest is an unstated defence of modern abstraction.

On the negative front - Rothko makes no reference to his own work, and I found the explanations of what he calls "the plastic elements" in art somewhat unclear as he makes connections to concepts such as "sensuality" "emotionality" "mood" without a convincing explanation.

The chapter on beauty has a tendency to concentrate on appearances replacing one classification with another, for example beauty is explained as a "convincing communication," and a "reaction"; "The sum total of all our plasticity in a painting must be the potentiality for the evocation of a sense of beauty".

I recommend this book to all students of art and anyone who might be interested in knowing more about the reasoning process that was the foundation of Rothko's art practice.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard Work and Obscure if you Don't Already Know the Subject, 28 Oct 2007
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Paperback)
Rothko is not an easy painter to understand. The works for which he is most famous are huge, dense slabs of art at its most abstract, and some would say profound. Contemplation over long periods of time is one of the only ways to really get to know this work, and the book operates in much the same milieu. The most useful part of this book is the preface and introduction written by the artist's son where he explains the birth of the book and to an extent gives us a gloss on his father's thoughts and philosophies. I found this much, much needed.

For those interested in Rothko's later and most famous works, this book is of little or no use, as it was written in 1941, before he began painting in this style. Even in looking at his earlier work it is not always helpful as it deals with the subject of 'art' in general rather than Rothko's art specifically.

The tortured nature of the language, the sheer struggle to make sense from the sentences and the sinuous and repetitious nature of the writing make it incredibly hard to pin down and understand clearly. What is amazing is that what is published has been heavily edited in terms of style and content to make it more accessible to the reader. I'm just profoundly glad I didn't get that job!

This is useful if you are already knowledgeable about Rothko and his work and want the warts and all, icing on the cake material. Not if you are beginning to appreciate his painting or as a way in to understanding the man or his work. For that I would highly recommend Simon Schama's essay on Rothko in his book Power of Art. Reading them both together helps enormously. A difficult book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rothko's Reality, 9 Sep 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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With Simon Schama, who took a "wrong right turn in the Tate" to discover him, I must admit to being a great Rothko enthusiast and lover of his paintings; unlike Schama, I cannot recall the "eureka moment" but it was not with the Seagrams. I just wish more people could know more about Rothko's work, other than these large dark paintings in Tate Modern.

He wrote the book/manuscripts/lectures in 1941; "it" was lost for two decades, eventually to be found and edited by his son and daughter and published in 2004.

Although it is difficult to read in places, it does show Rothko struggling with the place of art, modern art in particular, in today's world; of course, the place of art in the modern world was also his place, his life and his passion and his "raison d'être". Editors decided not to change the document - despite the linguistic challenges - to provide readers with Rothko's words and philosophy. It was the correct decision, making the experience more immediate and personal, although I think he wrote more clearly in paint.

I always think it is a pity that many people know Rothko only from Tate Modern's iconic 'Rothko Room', the Seagram Murals, originally commissioned for The Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building New York; the subdued lighting at Rothko's request, lends the room an aura quite different from the rest of the light coloured and brightly-lit gallery and viewers speak in subdued, almost reverential voices. These iconic paintings, composed of luminous, soft-edged rectangles saturated with colour - deep dark reds, oranges, maroons, browns, blacks, and greys - are among the most enduring and mysterious created by a modern artist. I always think Rothko painted these in the darkest of moods, for a purpose not seen in his work before. It is a sad irony that these paintings arrived and were opened at Tate Britain on the morning of February 25th, 1970, the day when he was found lying dead in a wine-dark sea of his own blood.

His earlier work is of a much more human scale in a bright, light, refreshing, seemingly more cheerful and invigorating palette; these are no less dynamically vital but much less intense (or a different type of intensity).

For Rothko enthusiasts, it is essential reading.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 3 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Paperback)
Excellent. Can't recommend enough
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous book, 19 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Paperback)
I really like the ability to see inside a book especially as I can't find another copy to look at first.

Great prompt service. Book in excellent condition.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was looking for., 18 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Paperback)
The methods used by Rothko have always been a mystery and I hoped that this book might mention them - if only in passing - but no, it's more of a social commentary. A bit disappointing.
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The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art
The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art by Mark Rothko (Paperback - 31 Mar 2006)
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