Idea itself really matters

It was said that Rothko gave us equilibrium and Pollock took us to chaos. They are the representative of abstract expressionism. And their new artwork can be regarded as “a reflexive and self-reflexive turn in conceptions of art and the role of the artist which continues to today”.( Irvine, P1)

Both of them used their distinct art style to display their strong personal preferences and their attitude towards art. Action Painting represented by Jackson Pollock used action and gesture as the basis of creation. Color-field painting represented by Mark Rothko relies on large areas of Color to express certain ideas.

Rothko’s painting is really the code word of the art world: “frontality.” No attempt to violate a two dimensional plane — no depth, no Angle; Any concrete interpretation is crudely forbidden (there are no empty beaches, no sky, no clouds). “This style offered him the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea and between the idea and the observer by getting rid of anything that triggered history or memory or narrative or even geometry.” He used colors to express emotions and these emotions and feelings connected observer and painter, which created a dialogue. All the value of this pure abstraction is reduced to the viewer’s response and appreciation of the tone, relationship, and balance or imbalance of the composition of each color block. Through the rigorous conditions it provides to the viewer, the pure abstraction itself is free from error, if properly appreciated. In spired by Nietzsche, Mark Rothko’s art focuses on the expression of spiritual connotation. He tried to reflect the profound symbolism through limited colors and minimal shapes. He believes that western civilization today is rooted in western traditional culture, especially Greek culture. The conflict between human and nature, between individual and group, is the reflection of human’s basic living state. He was trying to create an overwhelming sensory experience for the viewer through monumentality simplicity and stillness many have described standing before a Rothko as a Religious Experience. He said, “If you are only moved by color relationships, you are missing the point. I am interested in expressing the big emotions – tragedy, ecstasy.” Rothko wanted to make you feel something to encounter the undefinable to stare into the void to confront universal human tragedy; this isn’t painting about nothing it’s painting about everything.

Pollock’s painting does have some sort of “ineffable appeal.” Pollock’s brush never touches the canvas, and the paint drips on it like a raindrop, and it is called Drip Painting. There is beauty in the drop of paint, in the natural curves, in the right color scheme, and pollock elevates that natural beauty, recreates it, sublimates it into art. When Pollock was creating, after he hit the paint bucket with his body, the pendulum movement of the rope and the vibration of the paint bucket made the falling paint produce countless lines with self-similarity in different proportions. And these naturally formed seemingly entangled paintings, but potentially indescribable beauty. Critics of the secret art of masterpieces have argued that Pollock’s work is different from the desultorily scribbled work in that although the pictures seem random, the lines and colors always contain a special attraction Just judging from the first impression, Pollock’s works “dirty” picture, line “mess”, “poor” to the seemed to be spilled paint random canvas, of course, through images and screen has greatly reduced the effect of the original “shock” effect, because the common characteristics of these paintings is a larger picture, and on the canvas in the representational style to express their ideas, through the screen can’t direct perception of giant format and sensory of interaction and experience. Manic appearance, hidden under the exquisite poetry. The crazy picture, no doubt, is from a frenzied mind. Staring at these images for a long time, under the surface of madness, a sense of order and precision arises, as if these works are extracted from the solemn nature and are part of it. Pollock’s works are like the force of nature, with abundant energy. When he closes his eyes, he will never forget it for a long time. His stormy pen is like a black hole in the universe as if it can absorb everything in the world.

Both of them can be viewed as the pioneer of artists who abandon the traditional idea of having concrete objects as carriers. The idea itself becomes more important than concrete objects. In his or their works, you can no longer find the concrete things: people, trees and houses are all gone. Only abstract color blocks, lines, strokes, in their works, the concept has become more important than ever. Of course, you could also say that Pollock and Rothko’s success could not be separated from America’s urgent need to compete with Europe culturally after world war ii. However, we have to admit that they are masters of connecting the past with the future and creating a new era.


Irvine, Professor Martin. Introduction to Modern Art and Modernism: Framework for Case Studies at the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Mus

Laurie Schneider Adams, A History of Western Art. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. eum.

Here attached an interesting pic I found: