Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rothko and Cildo Meireles (Tate Modern)

I and Nora had been to Rothko exhibition a week back, but somehow did not enjoy seeing his work. According to Rothko, “The progression of a painter’s work…will be towards clarity; toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer…to achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.” Probably it is this removal of all obstacles and turning it into absolute clarity is what I did not understand. People were seen closely observing red on yellow, purple on black, black on grey and all kinds of colour combinations on huge canvases with mystified reverence. Adding to this was the gallery’s low lighting exactly “as had been requested by Rothko himself”. The exhibition also had Rothko’s work photographed under ultra violet light, to explain the numerous layers of colours, pigments and mediums that he used, which somehow seem to mystify the art work further. The exhibition illustrated the politics of art and the art gallery to its best.

In complete contradiction to this was Cildo Meireles’s work (born half a century after Rothko) which was absolutely stunning to engage with. Most exhibits were playful and at the same time political. For me Meireles managed the balance between politics and poetry beautifully. The rhetoric at no point in time took over the beauty of the form, which sometimes is very difficult especially when the art work is to represent a strong alignment within a highly political issue. It was nice. Inspite of the gallery having stationed public policing volunteers to stop people from taking photographs, I surreptitiously managed to take some snaps as a gesture of my support for the art work.

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