Much has been made of the metaphysical aspects of Mark Rothko's abstract art, especially his classic works of the 1950s and the Seagram murals. The claims for the spirituality of Rothko's work are by no means unique either to his art or to art in general. Indeed there are many people who probe cultural forms, such as art, in order to reflect on life and broader questions that can be classed as spiritual concerns. The "revelations" that Rothko's classic works give rise to, as described by visitors and commentators alike, reflect this phenomenon, and, taking this view further, explain why secular institutions such as art galleries can be spaces for spiritual experience. Rothko presents an interesting case as his work can be understood as spiritual in a broadly numinous way with recourse to the concepts of the sublime and the mystical as well as reflecting aspects of his Jewish identity. The intention of this article is to discuss the different spiritual aspects of Rothko's work, particularly of his later career, in order to argue for the coexistence of these different strands, as well as to show the progression of his ideas.
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- Department of Music & Design Arts - Professor of Visual Culture and Theory
- School of Arts and Humanities
- Centre for Cultural Ecologies in Art, Design and Architecture - Member