Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mark Rothko and Film

And what is art, if not a world in a frame?
(from David Anfam’s essay)

The library’s most recent book on Mark Rothko, entitled simply Rothko explores works created during the last decade of the artist's life. These works, called the Seagram Murals, are a set of nine large-scale paintings donated to the Tate under the condition that they always be displayed together. Among the essays in this book are two, 'The World in a Frame' by David Anfam and 'Rothko and the Cinematic Imagination' by Morgan Thomas, which reinterpret Rothko's later paintings and their relationship to film, through the lens and language of cinema.

From comparisons between Rothko's forms and the black monolith in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to the shared thematic concern with identity in John Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966), these essays explore the conversation between these two mediums

This book also reveals direct influences between the painter and filmmakers. In an account involving Michelangelo Antonioni, one learns that the filmmaker, while in New York presenting his L'eclisse, paid a visit to Rothko. For over an hour, the painter brought out his work one piece at a time and was full of anxiety due to Antonioni's complete silence. When the latter finally spoke through an interpreter he stated that they both had the same subject matter: nothingness. Another version has it that the filmmaker said, "Your paintings are like my films. They are about nothing . . . with precision." Antonioni's Il Deserto Rosso was made after his meeting with Rothko and is considered a departure from Antonioni’s signature style of filmmaking.

For more related library materials on Rothko and/or Antonioni please see:

The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art by Mark Rothko; edited and with an introduction by Christopher Rothko.

Mark Rothko, 1903-1970: Pictures As Drama by Jacob Baal-Teshuva.

Mark Rothko: Subjects In Abstraction by Anna C. Chave.

Antonioni: The Poet of Images by William Arrowsmith; edited with an introduction and notes by Ted Perry.

The films of Michelangelo Antonioni by Peter Brunette.

The Architecture of Vision: Writings And Interviews On Cinema by Michelangelo Antonioni.

In addition, for readers with a purely technical interest in Rothko’s Seagram Murals, pages 86-87 of this title thoroughly document the paint and chemical substances used in the ground, field, glaze and figure of each of these nine paintings.

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