Mark Rothko on The Artist’s Dilemma

I’ve been making my way through the collection of Mark Rothko’s Writings titled, The Artist’s Reality, Philosophies of Art in fits and starts for a while now and have wanted to post some snippet of the text in order to share what I regard as some very beautiful and cogent writing. Problem is this isn’t sound-byte type material. I’ve decided therefore to simply take the plunge and transcribe the first piece in the book, titled, The Artist’s Dilemma, in full. (Hopefully Mark’s son, and editor of the book, Christopher, will look upon this as the loving tribute [and incentive for those unfamiliar with the volume to pick it up] which it is, and not merely a copywrite infringement, which… it also unquestionably is.) Though the public persona of “the artist” has certainly changed since Rothko’s heyday as a member of the artistic intelligencia - particularly in the wake of Warhol’s savvy marketing blitz - this piece is, I believe, still relevant in many ways and beyond that it is a beautifuly written and precious artifact from what many of us would surely consider “better days” in the history of painting. See below. 

09.02. filed under: art. !. ideas. observations. people. 2


You walk the grid and are faced in the dark alleys, the back streets, the main drags, with those who have come before you. Looking up you see the work of their hands, the words which once enlivened their lips. Valiant signs try to hold on to the boldness of their pronouncements. They labor against the flow of time to go on advertising products and businesses long forgotten. Bent arrows point to non-existent locations. Fonts and faces of real and imagined ideals struggle against the inevitable fade; These artifacts and artifices long torn from their intended contexts, they are the blood of the hustle coagulated to stone.

08.02. filed under: !. observations. personal. 1


What’s so funny anyway?

I find myself less amused by the opening segments of Comedy Central’s weeknight double-punch of fake news lately. I can’t help but wonder whether programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which have us laughing at the ineptitude, corruption, war mongering, and profiteering of our Government, are in some way diffusing what ought to be a steadily building anger; an anger which by all rights ought to be seeking a vent right about now.

07.25. filed under: !. inquiries. observations. 8


self portrait, 1992

When you are young you know nothing but are convinced you know everything. And that’s its charm. It’s what makes foolhardy youth passionate and beautiful. When you are old you know nothing and are well aware you know nothing. After all the trial and error and revolving 3 a.m. philosophies you are still naked and lost. It’s exactly this which tinges age with sadness.

07.11. filed under: !. observations. 5


Some ramblings about American culture.

What would you call something which, having become poisoned and yet dominant, seems to impede, in its way, the further forward development of human culture at large, the hard won notions of the enlightenment, the happiness of individuals everywhere, and possibly the advancement of the species as a whole? I call it American culture.



Some ramblings about appearances

Shabby-chic or just plain shabby?

How is it that the average man of the 21st century has been raised up, in wealth, in holdings, in leisure time, in education, in rights, to levels on par with court members and landed gentry of earlier ages, but in respect to finery has sunk to the level of serf? Were even the least noble member of the humblest nation’s aristocracy of 5 centuries ago to meet a working man of today, though perhaps on par with him in wealth and below him in education, the noble would be forgiven for mistaking this average Joe for a barrowman.

06.17. filed under: !. humanity. inquiries. observations. 2


There are one hundred billion stars in the Milky Way
and not one is star-shaped. -Hans Hollein.

05.28. filed under: !. observations. space.


“Excuse me Sir. Do you support the Arts?”

An innocent enough question I suppose, but coming as it did from one of a pair of squeaky-clean teenagers wearing bright pastel-orange polo shirts (complete with matching, embroidered, institutional logos) and holding tell-tale clipboards, well it rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’d just been the long week I’d only moments before began trying to put behind me.

05.27. filed under: art. !. lies. observations.


City Skies

At some time in 1880’s urbanites in a few cities across the world each made real estate deals with the sky. Essentially the terms of the deals went something like this: “You let us build massive and towering buildings deep into your side of the horizon-line and we, in turn, will give up all rights to a decent view of you.” The sky, being a generally aloof sort, didn’t deign to protest.

05.15. filed under: !. history. life. observations. 3


The Bitter Pill

Or: how to tell if you are a cynic.

Each day, faced with a cascade of decisions, every one in itself a tiny course correction on our philosophical path, we choose between A or B, and in so doing re-affirm our view of the universe. Some of these choices seem weighty and are, in as much, weighed carefully. Others are so miniscule as to be invisible, the mechanics of their resolutions seeming involuntary. It’s the totality which frame you as a pessimist, an absurdist, an elitist, an idealist, a romatic, or what have you. I’d like to focus on one of these seemingly miniscule choices today…

05.12. filed under: !. ideas. lies. observations. 3


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