Silence is so accurate.
As we seek out today’s inheritors of Mark Rothko’s iconic color field painting style, we can’t only search for work that looks similar to his. We must also pursue work that’s founded on similar ideas. It’s one thing for contemporary color field artists to imitate Rothko’s visual style. It’s quite another for them to share, and successfully communicate Rothko’s intentions. But how do we know what Rothko’s intentions were? Simple. He told us.
In 1971, the city of Houston, Texas, became the recipient of a unique work of art: the Rothko Chapel, a modernist, octagonal structure containing 14 of Rothko’s large-scale paintings. In the entryway to the space is a selection of every holy book known to exist. Visitors may take a book into the space or not. Rothko considered the building and the art contained within it to be a single work. The chapel is his defining achievement. It clarifies Rothko’s intention that his paintings not be seen as ends in themselves, but be seen as means through which viewers might access a larger experience through color.
Here are four contemporary color field artists we feel are carrying forward the tradition of Rothko’s style and intent.
Rachel Garrard - Inflect, 2015
A multi-disciplinary artist, Garrard works in performance, sculpture, photography, painting, and any other medium her ideas may require. Her practice is deeply rooted in the experience of process. The physicality and intimacy with which she undertakes that process are rife with ideas and feeling. She is transformed by each work she undertakes, and the emotive power of that personal transformation emanates from her work. There is something deep, beyond the colors and spaces contained in Garrard’s paintings. They present less like surfaces and more like gateways to transcendence.
Richard Caldicott - Chance-Fall (8), 2010
Caldicott’s work is a purified exploration of the essential building blocks of image; In particular, color. Though Caldicott often incorporates geometric shapes and lines into his work, it’s the way that color inhabits his created spaces that invites us to explore the deeper conceptual levels of the work. Caldicott’s images project a lucidity that seems to promise clarity of thought through their contemplation.
Sandrine Kern - Coquelicot, 2010
Working with oil paint and cold wax, Sandrine Kern creates works of layered luminescence, deeply informed and influenced by color. Her paintings access a primeval common consciousness. Within them, viewers are offered a gentle, yet profound place in which to interpret their own experiences.
Carrie Moyer - Meat Cloud, 2001
Moyer’s multidisciplinary practice incorporates a multi-faceted methodology, which includes abstract painting. Among her color field-inspired canvases, which often extend beyond the limitations of the style, are works that boldly initiate transcendent, open-ended emotional interactions with viewers. Says Moyer of her practice:“I’m not interested in intellectual opacity or “enlightening” the viewer. I’m going for beauty, seduction, and play — a physical experience, an optical experience.”
There are many other artists working to build upon the legacy of Mark Rothko’s color field paintings. Artists such as Pieter Vermeersch, Murray Dessner, Keira Kotler, Miya Ando and Pandit Khairnar. Each of these artists contributes to a conversation Rothko initiated; a conversation about what lies beyond the surface of the painting, and how the experience of color can help us find our way there.
Featured image: Sandrine Kern - Standstill, 2014
All images used for illustrative purposes only