Thursday, November 16, 2017

Murakami vs Rothko at the MFA in Boston - is art meant to make you smile or cry?

There're a few new shows at the MFA currently that are quite interesting to me in their contrast to each other. It's the very much talked about Takashi Murakami exhibit vs. the Mark Rothko exhibit, which virtually noone knows about.
I find Murakami to be so flat, impersonal and superficial. Yes, he found a symbol that is now our association with him, that of the flowers with a somewhat sickening grin. When you see it, or especially them in bunches you immediately recognize that they're his. But what does it do to you as a viewer except for this pleasure of recognition? It invokes nothing. It's just a pure Pop statement that just like Warhol before him, or Lichtenstein or Jess Koons - has no emotional connection to anything in anyone's psyche.
And then I step into the world of Mark Rothko and I begin to weep while on my second painting. I can't really explain what makes me weep. It could be the layers of his emotionally charged juxtapositions of color. It could be the simplicity or the perceived simplicity of his vast rectangles chosen for all his compositions. But I can feel his fingertips spreading the paint, touching it, making it visceral, psychological, incredibly emotional. I can feel him getting to the core of the message, to the core of my soul. I see this incredibly powerful effect of layers on my psyche as a viewer.
If one encloses simple relationships that are of utmost importance in a casing that does not distract from the message, that's when it starts to say what it's meant to say. Therefore, in a way these two exhibits are about the same elements. There's a symbol or idea that is key, and through its repetition, within the same casings you see it manifesting as a style.
This casing or composition should not distract from the main idea and that's where I think my problem lies. My landscapes are always seen as of utmost importance, and the play of colors as secondary. When in reality what I want is for the landscape to translate as a shadow of itself, and for the real quest of color harmonies to manifest as a primary goal.
But my main issue with the perception of these two exhibits still remains. Are we as people of today more attracted to the superficiality of Murakami than the depth of feeling of Rothko? Or do auction prices for the sales of Rothko pieces say otherwise? Or were there always two camps of viewers - those who want to look at art and smile, and those who are searching for something that would make them cry?

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