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It Speaks to Me: Mark Bradford on Mark Rothko's 'No. 61 (Rust and Blue)' at MOCA [Updated]

February 9, 2011 |  9:59 am

Rothko91 I had a print of this painting in my room when I was a teenager. I used to stare at it at night going to sleep. I think my mother bought it to give the room a splash of color. I didn’t know the whole Rothko mythology then: the romantic/modernist tormented painter who committed suicide. I didn’t know his role in the New York scene of the 1950s. And I wasn’t seduced by the spirituality, what I later saw in the Rothko Chapel. But I remember looking at it and thinking I wanted to do that; I wanted to make surfaces. Later on, after reading about his work and Abstract Expressionism, I remember looking at the painting and feeling nullified by it — how much is not there, no women and no people of color. So it’s perplexing. I don’t buy the romanticism or the idea of channeling an inner life right onto the surface. But I am an abstract painter. I never went through a figurative moment, even as a child.

-- Artist Mark Bradford, as told to Jori Finkel  


Image: Mark Rothko's "No. 61 (Rust and Blue)" [Brown Blue, Brown on Blue], 1953, oil on canvas. Credit: The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Panza Collection, © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. [Updated: The image provided by the museum was upside down and appeared that way in a previous version of this post; this is the correct orientation.]