Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


No one lives forever.
October 7, 2012 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Recently Confirmed: A Rothko painting has been defaced at Tate Modern today.

Mark Rothko's 1958 painting Black on Maroon was defaced by a visitor at the Tate Museum in London this afternoon. A play-by-play from the initial discovery to the confirmation from the museum can be found at hyperallergic.com, along with a look at the alleged vandal (whose name is an anagram for "I'm True Vandalism" and who says he increased the value of the painting by tagging it).
posted by Oliva Porphyria (183 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
My god! TWO crimes! A defacing AND a picture taken of the work in the museum!!!
posted by symbioid at 6:54 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


The jury might be out on whether he "increased the value", but if he believes monetary value is the purpose of art, he's not a fucking artist.
posted by Jimbob at 6:54 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Blank spaces tend to attract graffiti. Not condoning, just saying, if Rothko had done a pretty lady or some nice mountains, this wouldn't have happened.
posted by pfh at 6:54 PM on October 7, 2012 [28 favorites]


What a total fuck, this guy.
posted by kbanas at 6:55 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I am a beautiful monster
who shares his secret with the wind.
What I love most in others
is myself"
posted by sendai sleep master at 6:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a rich work, even in photographs which hardly do the impression justice that Rothko's paintings create. This guy is just a douchebag, and I hope stupid antics like this won't make it harder for common people to get close to really look at these works.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm just glad they got everyone evacuated before the painting asploded from markers.
posted by DU at 6:58 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interesting concept. His art is signing work by other artists. This goes beyond an artist signing an original concept executed by another artist, as is the case with many contemporary works of art, where a work may be executed by an assistant or specialist.

The jury might be out on whether he "increased the value", but if he believes monetary value is the purpose of art, he's not a fucking artist.

I believe that is what he is commenting on, mass production of art as practiced by Kostabi, Hirst and many other.

The concept of "artist" has tilted towards the conceptual away from an artisan that executes art with their own hands.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:59 PM on October 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Who knows how it was done, but evacuation seems like exactly what you wouldn't want to do to catch the person responsible...
posted by rollbiz at 6:59 PM on October 7, 2012


I came here to say what Ad hominem has already articulated.

I'm conflicted - I really enjoy Rothko's work, but am also fascinated by this signing/tagging.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:01 PM on October 7, 2012


if he believes monetary value is the purpose of art, he's not a fucking artist.

Tell that to Damien Hirst (not a hater, I actually think the man is onto something).
posted by nathancaswell at 7:01 PM on October 7, 2012


I have a lot of deeply conflicted ~feelings about art, so I assure you I am not at all to blame for finding this wildly hilarious. This is a bare step away from pretentious installation, and I applaud it wholeheartedly.
posted by elizardbits at 7:02 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


not really ETA: unnecessarily pretentious installation
posted by elizardbits at 7:03 PM on October 7, 2012


Tell that to Damien Hirst (not a hater, I actually think the man is onto something).

I was just about to mention Hirst in my comment. Then I remembered I actually like some of his stuff. Kinda. Almost.
posted by Jimbob at 7:04 PM on October 7, 2012


"The concept of "artist" has tilted towards the conceptual away from an artisan that executes art with their own hands."

Works have been made by assistants for a very long time now. Even the paintings of the dutch masters were for a large part painted by assistants, with the artist touching up a few details and signing the canvas.
posted by idiopath at 7:04 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, he plays the Duchamp card.

Newsflash, asshole: Duchamp was a thousand more times more brilliant than you can ever dream.

I love Rothko profoundly, and I deeply love that installation in particular, so I am unambiguously horrified and infuriated.
posted by scody at 7:04 PM on October 7, 2012 [47 favorites]


Check out the yellowist website the links mention. The whole thing seems like an ARG ad campaign for something which, if it is in fact real, could very well be the point.

That being said, I won't be shocked if it turns out that the real Rothko is safe and back in storage while this gets used as an ad for a new exhibition, a movie, a game, a grocery store....Which of course would be interesting in an of itself.
posted by sendai sleep master at 7:08 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Really? Rothko? You couldn't deface that shark in formaldehyde or something?
posted by basicchannel at 7:11 PM on October 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


Then again, the more I read it the more it seems like the contemporary artistic equivalent of schizophrenic word salad. Fine art babble mixed with pop culture references and the phrase "An Oak Tree." Either way, can't stop reading it.
posted by sendai sleep master at 7:11 PM on October 7, 2012


ugh, some ghastly jj abrams shit about hidden jesus feelings, with egregious lens flare.
posted by elizardbits at 7:11 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


now THAT would be a crime
posted by elizardbits at 7:12 PM on October 7, 2012


I am unambiguously horrified and infuriated.

Seriously. Go tag a Neiman or Nagel print down at the McDonald's.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:14 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, way to stick it to the infamous definition of the mainstream known as Mark Rothko!

hamburger
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:15 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


You couldn't deface that shark in formaldehyde or something?

Last I heard, it was defacing itself.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:15 PM on October 7, 2012


Works have been made by assistants for a very long time now. Even the paintings of the dutch masters were for a large part painted by assistants, with the artist touching up a few details and signing the canvas.

That is interesting. I don't think approaches Hirst's spot paintings, where a mass produced object is signed by the artist. In Hirst's spot paintings the execution is entirely irrelevant.

Interestingly The Tate just bought 8 million of Ai Weiwei's mass produced sunflower seeds. I think that is an entirely different and more interesting take on mass production of art. Where the work is a collective effort. Each sunflower seed is insignificant on its own, meaningless until it was combined with the work of hundreds of others.

I was once given a peice of candy from an installation at The Whitney. The artist made me eat it, but I still have the wrapper. I really wish I could have one of Weiwei's sunflower seeds.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:16 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


First degree philistinism. Sentence: death. No appeals.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


If anyone is really into *ahem* "signing", then I would defer you to the cinematic portrayal of such "signing" in the seminal work thusly called Wild Style. I believe some here will be delighted to find one such enlightened "signer" happily "adding value" to many other's pieces. I assure you he is a standout amongst the artists, as he is a Grade A "signer" so to speak.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:21 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bring back the public pillory!
posted by Vibrissae at 7:24 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh, Rotokos might be interesting, but I really don't understand the value of an individual Rothko. It's not like someone else couldn't produce something that was just as nice to look at.

So yeah, I'm not sure if I buy the idea that an individual Rothko really should be worth that much to begin with. It seems like it would be easy to restore this painting, or just replace it entirely.
posted by delmoi at 7:25 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm having a hard time responding to this in a way that doesn't involve face punching. I've teared up in front of this painting. It's like hearing bad news about an old friend.
posted by cmoj at 7:30 PM on October 7, 2012 [29 favorites]


Also if they're gonna invoke tagging and shit in this defacement, let me just say this dude's hand fucking sucks.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:31 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Rotokos might be interesting, but I really don't understand the value of an individual Rothko.

Sincere question: have you ever actually seen one? (In real life, not online or in a book.)
posted by scody at 7:31 PM on October 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Eh, Rotokos might be interesting, but I really don't understand the value of an individual Rothko. It's not like someone else couldn't produce something that was just as nice to look at.

I can see you're some combination of not-a-painter and someone-who's-never-seen-a-Rothko-in-person. Yes, you can make some other color field painting that would hang fine on a dentist's wall, but no. You can't just make another Rothko.
posted by cmoj at 7:31 PM on October 7, 2012 [29 favorites]


You couldn't deface that shark in formaldehyde or something?

This page linked from hyperallergic.com notes that Damien Hirst was associated with the yellowists and "Vladimir Umanets" in a London show earlier this past May. Might explain why they didn't go after one of his pieces, which I agree would have been much more appropriate.
posted by mediareport at 7:32 PM on October 7, 2012


Naturally if the perp has any kind of manifesto or whatever it should be burnt or erased sight unseen.
posted by Artw at 7:36 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is all contained within the arts realm. The lady who "fixed" the painting of jesus committed far greater egregious crime against the historical record of the humanities than this guy.

I mean, he's an asshole, yes, but I have to say, in some way, I respect it.
posted by roboton666 at 7:36 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


My god! TWO crimes! A defacing AND a picture taken of the work in the museum!!!
posted by symbioid at 6:54 PM on October 7 [1 favorite +] [!]


According to Tate Modern's rules/guidelines (oddly described as both), taking and using photos of the paintings in the main galleries for personal, non-commercial use is OK. This Rothko is part of Tate's permanent collection so I assume it's part of the main galleries.


The painting was gifted to the museum by the artist:
"The gift was finalised in 1969 and the paintings arrived in 1970 [the other works are Tate Gallery T01163-T01170]. On the day of their arrival, as the huge crates were being unpacked to reveal their contents, a cable was received from New York announcing that Rothko had been found dead in his studio."
posted by Bwithh at 7:37 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


The value of a Rothko, in my experience, is not so much that it is pretty to look at, but that it is immense when you are face-to-face with it, and you can experience it like other Very Large and Impressive Things, like mountains, a sky, a tall building, etc. I didn't really get what the big deal was until I saw these huge canvases in person at the Tate a few years back.

As for whether a Rothko should be worth that much, I'm inclined to say no, but to deface the work itself in reaction to those who have declared it expensive, and in reaction to other trends in the institutions of art, is to defer to those who claim to be authorities on art by accepting their status as authorities, and thus proper targets of rebellion, while simultaneously detracting from the experience of viewing the work (in my opinion - at the very least, unilaterally imposing yourself in the experience) for everybody.

In other words, Christ, what an asshole.
posted by univac at 7:38 PM on October 7, 2012 [31 favorites]


The Yellowism site is a great example of talking a lot, but saying nothing. Total art school.
posted by Sreiny at 7:43 PM on October 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


I can tell you guys have never seen the shark in formaldehyde. You can't really appreciate it until you stand in a room with it. Much like Rothkos it is impressive in it's scale.

Can you sign something that was created through billions of years of evolution?

Seriously. Go tag a Neiman or Nagel print down at the McDonald's.

These paintings were originally painted for The Four Seasons restaurant. Rothko painted them to be ugly and disturb the patrons but then decided to keep them himself. If not for Rothko's anti-pretense stance against The Four Season, they might have been hanging in a restaurant.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:43 PM on October 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?
posted by w0mbat at 7:44 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everything.
posted by Artw at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2012 [92 favorites]


> From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?

Go for it!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Interesting factoid, Ad hominem. Most of what i know about Rothko I gleaned from visiting the Rothko Chapel when I lived 2 blocks from it in Houston.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:48 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?

A lot.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:50 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?

What you're missing is that whether or not you could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator's brush doesn't necessarily affect whether your 10-minute work or a Rothko are compelling or not.

On another note, I was sitting here fretting about the state of the world, until I learned that there is a new art movement that is important! Those poor wretches in the Gawker post should stop worrying and be important yellowists!
posted by univac at 7:50 PM on October 7, 2012


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?

To be honest, I felt the same way about Rothko. Until I say the installation that was defaced, actually. The size and scale of the paintings had a pretty big effect on me, and while I'm not really a super artsy person, these paintings on that site are something I really like. I had to be there to really get it.
posted by clockbound at 7:52 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?

Besides humility and curiosity, you mean?
posted by scody at 7:54 PM on October 7, 2012 [41 favorites]


That website reminds me of when my cousin gets drunk and posts picture after picture of underwear models to his Facebook page.

I don't know if it counts as a movement if there are only two people involved. Also, no matter how you feel about Rothko, the last thing the universe needs is further What-Is-Art discussions.
posted by gingerest at 7:54 PM on October 7, 2012


w0mbat can paint web images with a decorators brush.
posted by panaceanot at 7:55 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's dead, Jim.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:56 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is a desperate act, a cry for attention, and a shitty one at that.
The Tate is a wonderful museum and it is almost always free admission.

A real graffiti artist would've tagged all of the Rothko posters in the museum store.
posted by at the crossroads at 7:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thomas Kinkade however... that's real skills.
posted by panaceanot at 7:58 PM on October 7, 2012


Fucking hipster.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:58 PM on October 7, 2012


The other yellowist fellow's name anagrams to "Cloying Drama".
posted by mkb at 7:58 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The lady who "fixed" the painting of jesus committed far greater egregious crime against the historical record of the humanities than this guy.

Sez you. But personally I'm not at all inclined to accept your hierarchical assigning of cultural value in this instance.

From web images of Rothkos...

Perhaps it's time for you to consider that paintings (among other works of art) should definitely not be judged from "web images", but, rather in the way they've been appreciated for centuries. By looking at them, in a room, where they hang, with your two eyes.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


TBH I'd feel the same about ANY painting in the Tate Modern. The place is an institution, you do not fuck with it.
posted by Artw at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Doing some shitty thing shitty people do all the time (stealing, random ugly tagging), but in the context of someone famous so that it is noticed by the media, is one of the most boring and predictable developments of the urban/graffiti/street art "movement".
posted by nanojath at 8:05 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The mentions of both defacing art and Damien Hirst reminds me of a great story that's somewhat similar.

Damien Hirst, created a piece he called "Away from the Flock", which consisted of a dead sheep floating in formaldehyde. Another artist, named Mark Bridger, felt inspired to do a little creating of his own, and he poured a vial of ink into the tank, retitled the exhibit Black Sheep, and offered his business card to the gallery owner.

Bridger was charged with criminal mischief rather than creating art, but a few years later, he turned the tables. Hirst had created a catalog of his work, and made a pull-tab for the page on "Away from the Flock" so that it would be obscured with black, just as it had been when it was “inked”. Bridger responded by suing Hirst for copyright, saying that Black Sheep was his work not Hirst’s, and could not be reproduced in the book without his permission.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:06 PM on October 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?
posted by w0mbat at 9:44 PM on October 7


Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners...I think that about covers it.
posted by goethean at 8:07 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it possible, guys, that w0mbat was looking for an earnest answer to an earnest question rather than getting angry responses that likely confirm the insular, "you just don't get it", idea of the art world that most people picture when considering the subject?
posted by sendai sleep master at 8:10 PM on October 7, 2012 [43 favorites]


I can almost guarantee if you set out to paint a knock off Rothko it'd end up looking like terrible bootleg crap... the shit is harder than it looks folks.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2012


Seriously, no one here can offer a cogent explanation of the value of a Rothko that isn't essentially, you're a philistine with no taste?
posted by Mavri at 8:16 PM on October 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


It's not really an answerable question. Check out a Rothko in person, it'll speak to you or it won't. If what made it special could just be described it wouldn't be much cop as a painting.
posted by Artw at 8:17 PM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


(But I suspect a lot of it, for me, is scale and the smell of the thing.)
posted by Artw at 8:18 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude most people cannot even draw a straight line. Seriously. Go draw a straight line. If you can do that, awesome. Go draw a circle.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:19 PM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Here's a good short video of Rothko's technique and what he was trying to achieve. Includes a person replicating his technique.

I'm always most amazed at the edges where his colors intersect. On the other hand, his works can be really difficult to conserve because they're thin layers.
posted by PussKillian at 8:19 PM on October 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


What's done is done but I really hope that the Tate Modern presses charges against the genius that defaced the painting, suing him for damages, financial loss and shitty art critique. Something tells me that this Duchamp mini-me is a broke-ass attention seeker who couldn't afford a decent lawyer to represent him in court.

Hey, all this art talk is surprisingly cathartic and I'm not just saying that because the yellowism manifesto gave me diarrhea, officer McNulty.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:20 PM on October 7, 2012


Is it possible, guys, that w0mbat was looking for an earnest answer to an earnest question rather than getting angry responses that likely confirm the insular, "you just don't get it", idea of the art world that most people picture when considering the subject?

Sure. I will say, however, that in my years around modern and contemporary art, I've found pretty consistently that that people who do ask this question in earnest don't tend to lead with some variation on the sarcastic "my kid/a monkey/me and a decorator's brush could paint that" cliche.

That said, I have offered these thoughts about Rothko previously (as did others in those threads, the second of which, in fact, is pretty much entirely about just this question of the significance of Rothko's work).
posted by scody at 8:21 PM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seriously, no one here can offer a cogent explanation of the value of a Rothko that isn't essentially, you're a philistine with no taste?

The principal value of Rothko is it allows admirers to distance themselves from the lower classes, by flaunting their cultural capital. Read Bourdieu's Distinction.

It goes a long way to explaining these kinds of comments above: "Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners...I think that about covers it." Liking Rothko is a token that says, "I have knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners" – and a high social status.
posted by dontjumplarry at 8:22 PM on October 7, 2012 [35 favorites]


I've seen one in person, and I thought it was pretty cool. But I couldn't explain why, so I wouldn't insult people who hadn't seen one or weren't impressed when they did. If you can't explain why you like something how can you be so sure your opinion is superior? It's all gut. (Universal you.)
posted by Mavri at 8:24 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll give it a shot. w0mbat, what you are possibly missing from viewing images of Rothko's work on the web is subtlety. He created his work by layering paint on the canvas, a color at a time, creating those luminous fields.

I had the fortune to see his No. 10 at the High Museum here last week. And yeah, looking at it on the internet, you see blue and yellow and white. But standing close to the thing, you see the layers of color underneath, the field of red that is mostly obscured by the three or four layers on top of it. The thing's also like seven feet tall, so you don't have to get very close before it takes over your field of vision. The effect of all those layers, all that color and the lack of anything in the foreground or background is that the paint seems to glow. It's like closing your eyes for a nap, lying on your back in the grass on a sunny day, where you can see the sun shining through your eyelids and painting your vision orange and red. Or it's like opening your eyes underwater.

It's really extraordinary and worth your time.
posted by Maaik at 8:25 PM on October 7, 2012 [54 favorites]


Others have mentioned the scale of the paintings and sure, that's something -- especially at the Rothko Chapel in Houston. But, I've seen other Rothko paintings that are surprisingly small, more on scale with the human body, six feet tall... and they are just as impressive. There is a depth of color you see standing in front of one of his paintings that you can not see in reproduction. They glow. To me, the discrepancy is similar to watching a movie about people SCUBA diving versus actually going SCUBA diving yourself.
posted by at the crossroads at 8:29 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


> Is it possible, guys, that w0mbat was looking for an earnest answer to an earnest question

"Go for it" is a perfectly earnest answer. Lots of great artists and musicians have been inspired by trying to do better. Sitting in front of a blank canvas is very revelator.

But frankly, the question of "Is It Art?" is old old old. It gets posted in each and every Mefi thread involving "modern" art. Now, whenever someone says, "I don't understand why this work is important, please explain it to me," there are have been a lot of people politely explaining what was going on.

But when asked, "I saw a thumbnail, I could have made X in a few minutes with bad tools," well, it's not respectful of the art, or the people here who value it. If you're an adult and haven't thought enough about painting to understand that it cannot be evaluated from a Google image search, well, there's nothing to say.

> Seriously, no one here can offer a cogent explanation of the value of a Rothko that isn't essentially, you're a philistine with no taste?

His pieces have both aesthetic and historical value. They look good in person, by being huge and seeming ragged in the 2d extent and yet having an incredibly smooth surface that sucks the light in - and they also were ground-breaking paintings in a time when painting was transitioning to "being about something important" to "the sense impression that this object makes on your retina stimulates your aesthetic and intellectual self".

(I should add that it took him a fairly long time to do each painting, because he was so meticulous in trying to get the exact surface he wanted, and because the canvases are so large. Even if you were trying to paint a good copy or "look similar" in his style today, it'd probably take you the better part of a week to accomplish it - if you were already a skilled painter.)

Here's a really nice article with a different take on it from the point of view of a painter.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:29 PM on October 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


Houstonians are privy to a room of them.
posted by brujita at 8:29 PM on October 7, 2012


From the 3rd link: "The Metropolitan police art squad is investigating an incident at the museum"

I wonder what the Metropolitan police art squad do for the other 364 days per year?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love Rothko, but the point isn't 'what is art'? It's who the fuck is this guy to ruin something that is there for everyone else's enjoyment and personal appreciation. Who the fuck is he and why wasn't he caught immediately?
posted by bquarters at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


sorry for the rude language
posted by bquarters at 8:32 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


For almost 20 years I've had a recurring fantasy in which I contract a terminal illness and go on a road trip killing people who every day spend their lives making the world a worse place to live. Fred Phelps, Michelle Malkin, Don the asshole who comes into my store every once in a while and raises shit, numerous politicians I won't name to keep MeFi from receiving a subpoena for my IP address...

Vladimir, you worthless piece of shit, pray I stay healthy.
posted by dobbs at 8:40 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking of that scotch-egg Jesus, from the same site: now as a Halloween costume.
posted by the cydonian at 8:46 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hard to get to worked up over this. Insurance will pay for the painting to be restored and the Tate will get a pro instead of a crazy old lady.

He probably did increase the value of all Rothkos just by increasing their publicity but that kind of tagging is just crap. If he was going to make a statement with this he should do something better than a hoodlum scratching his initials on a bus window.

For almost 20 years I've had a recurring fantasy in which I contract a terminal illness and go on a road trip killing people who every day spend their lives making the world a worse place to live. Fred Phelps, Michelle Malkin, Don the asshole who comes into my store every once in a while and raises shit, numerous politicians I won't name to keep MeFi from receiving a subpoena for my IP address...


This is exactly a movie directed by Bobcat Goldthwait ( God Bless America )
posted by srboisvert at 8:47 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Than you, Mr. Yonderboy. I frankly have had a number of very intelligent people ask me the "my 5 year old could..." question and, it having been a number of years since I truly read Rothko's writing and the writing surrounding his work, I was unable to give an answer other than the polite "you have to see them" that others have given here.

Knowing that the people who have asked me are smart but just haven't had a lot of exposure to the art world I am glad that someone is able to fill in the gaps of my memory and offer that context.

Also, thank you, scody.
posted by sendai sleep master at 8:47 PM on October 7, 2012


This makes my mind hurt.

I didn't 'get' Rothko for a while either, but it's true that seeing them in person is a totally different kettle of fish. Especially the large canvases - standing close enough as to be completely inside the color field is very emotionally powerful (at least for me). It would be truly tragic if this makes it difficult to get that close, as Rothko intended (iirc).
posted by georg_cantor at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2012


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?

That you didn't.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:55 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush.

seeing as how this thread is about exactly what an untrained but highly motivated non-artist can do in a couple of minutes using only ordinary painting supplies, the irony of this statement is dizzying.
posted by facetious at 8:56 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've seen Rothko. It's all right. The colors are nice. You can roll around them for awhile. I didn't cry or anything, though.

I find the reactions to this as compared to the reactions to the Jesus-restoration lady funny. There was some outrage there, but just as much humor. And sure, part of it was that the perp was a hapless old lady just trying to help, but I wonder, too, if the weight we put on Rothko as art vs. a more classical piece as art also has something to do with it. I think this guy is making somewhat of a statement, and I get what he's saying about Duchamp. I don't think he's wrong but I don't think he's right, either. I like art to be spurred by some form of genuine engagement, and I think that's what Rothko has over the graffiti artist here.

Mostly I'm surprised that the Tate doesn't have better security.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


What makes a Rothko art and not simply a decoration?

You could mimic the execution pretty easily I suppose, your work may not be art. Much like murder, art is defined by intent. The intent of art is to communicate something to the viewer. The painting is a channel through which the artist their emotions,ideas, mental states. It is an attempt to share their being, Rothko wasn't simply painting cool shapes, it is an expression of his being in an attempt to bring about a shared understanding.

You could replicate a painting, it could even be art in its own right, after all one of the most valuable photographs in the world is a photo of a magazine ad. You cannot replicate the intent of the original artist.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:02 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, trust me, some idiot defaced a local mural I don't even like that much a couple of times and got it painted over by the council and I'm all for breaking that fuckers hands with a hammer.
posted by Artw at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]



I hope people will forgive me for mentioning Dar Williams' "Mark Rothko Song", which always gets me, a little, even if it shows up on scramble mode on my iPod while I'm otherwise entirely engaged. Nobody really knows anything about Mark Rothko, really, but that song is a good piece of imagination and an articulate plea to earnestly consider his work.
posted by newdaddy at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the 3rd link: "The Metropolitan police art squad is investigating an incident at the museum"

I wonder what the Metropolitan police art squad do for the other 364 days per year?


They carefully scour all modern-art-related threads here at Mefi, monitoring comments like "You call that ART? I could do that with an old rag and some house paint in my sleep!" or "Hey, right on, this tagger guy's making a statement on how lousy your high-brow *art* is".

These are clues to understanding the mind of an art defacer, you see.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:09 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


You could mimic the execution pretty easily I suppose, your work may not be art.

You really can't. This has been covered in this thread. I get that the whole, "you just don't get it," explanation is a problem, but this is an instance where that's all that can easily be said about it.

I relate to them as a painter. I went to school for it. I've spent years and years doing it. Every Rothko I've seen in person is a technical and spiritual* achievement that I would be overjoyed to accomplish even once.

*By which I mean the level of sensitivity, meditation, and attention required to do something like that.
posted by cmoj at 9:09 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Others have mentioned the Rothko chapel in Houston... another Houston connection: Infamous Uriel Landeros who tagged Picasso painting at the Menil is having a showing (link goes to a topic in reddit/r/Houston).
posted by smcameron at 9:11 PM on October 7, 2012


Sigh.

W0mbat, apologies for assuming you're a fellow Aussie based on your username, and I know there are vast distances between Australia and the art galleries of Europe and the US, but could you paint an adequate representation of Uluru with a brush and three tubes of oil paint? Sure.

Could you capture the enormity, the time-worn, the emotional response, the underlying questions it evokes, the experience of viewing it in a gallery space dedicated to its consumption? A space someone has to get dressed, eat breakfast and plan their day around viewing it in person.

For all of those reasons and countless more, no. You couldn't reproduce a Rothko with a decorator's brush.
posted by panaceanot at 9:14 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You really can't

Ok, maybe you can't in this case but IMO the fact that you can't replicate a specific execution is not what makes art. Some artists are undoubtedly master craftspeople in their own rights and the craft can be admired for its own right. I wasn't trying to detract from Rothko but to point out that the intent to communicate with the viewer, to draw the viewer into the artist's mind, exists outside manipulation of paint. Of course you can argue that a work is only successful if the execution manages to convey the artists intent. I suppose that is what makes some artists great, the intent and the execution align in some way and the peice "speaks to people".
posted by Ad hominem at 9:19 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know there are vast distances between Australia and the art galleries of Europe and the US, but could you paint an adequate representation of Uluru with a brush and three tubes of oil paint?

Most Australians, myself included, are far more likely to have visited the great art galleries of Europe and the US than Uluru (Ayers Rock).

That thing is in the middle of freaking nowhere.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:19 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I found it on google maps in satellite mode pretty easily. It's smack bang in the middle of Australia.
posted by panaceanot at 9:28 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Toy
posted by hellojed at 9:31 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Read Bourdieu's Distinction.
It goes a long way to explaining these kinds of comments above: "Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners...I think that about covers it." Liking Rothko is a token that says, "I have knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners" –and a high social status.


Or those kinds of comments mean you have accrued a maturity, or thoughtfulness, of and with the subject.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:39 PM on October 7, 2012


I didn't get art/paintings for the longest time. I would visit art galleries and come back wondering about the point of it all. While I was impressed with the highly-detailed paintings (not sure what they are called - impressionist? realist?), I thought that the invention of photography had made that sort of art pointless. Modern art left me cold. I was the reverse-snob. I would go to galleries and secretly laugh at everyone staring at the so-called modern art.

I visited a Picasso exhibition in much the same way. I made my way through all the displays with contempt towards everyone else admiring the works.

And then I reached the last painting (this one) in the exhibition. I still can't really explain the effect it had on me, but I stood there for a good 10-15 minutes just staring at it. It made me happy, and had it not been for the crowd forming around me, I would have burst out laughing. That's how happy I felt. I just kept staring and grinning like a maniac. I guess that explains the crowd.

Had I not visited the exhibition on the very last day just before closing time, I could have spent a lot more time in front of just that painting.

Not saying that I "get" art now. But since then, I do understand that art really can impact people in very meaningful ways. If a piece of art speaks to you, great. If not, you can just move on. There is a part of me that still tends to relapse into bad old habits, so I do need to remind myself of "The Young Painter" on occasion.

So, those of us who don't get Rothko, you are not alone. It is just that you haven't yet come across that one painting that would make it all clear to you.
posted by vidur at 9:41 PM on October 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


Panaceanot,Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne have excellent museums. I think that Australians would be just as appalled if something like that happened in one of them.
posted by brujita at 10:14 PM on October 7, 2012


Ha ha. The 'art' is in the philosophical conundrums raised by this obvious question: How can you tell when Rothko's been defaced?
posted by Twang at 10:16 PM on October 7, 2012


I wish people who expressed honest puzzlement at an artist's popularity weren't brushed away with simple one-line responses. Answering "what am I missing?" with "everything" or "a lot" really adds nothing to the conversation. You might feel something when you stand in front of a Rothko painting, but what difference does it make if you can't explain your reaction to someone who doesn't?
posted by archagon at 10:25 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


When you stand in front of a mirror, what is your reaction?
Vanity? Disgust? Pride? Amazement? Wonder? Hatred?
Standing in front of a Rothko painting is a lot like looking at yourself in the mirror.
posted by at the crossroads at 10:30 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


donjumplarry: The principal value of Rothko is it allows admirers to distance themselves from the lower classes, by flaunting their cultural capital.

Now who's being dismissive?

I work at a museum that, by virtue of its educational outreach programs, is essentially the only source of art education for whole swaths of the LA Unified School District -- a school district that by no stretch of the imagination could possibly be said to be serving "the upper classes."

A few months ago, I was walking through our modern and contemporary galleries, on my way from a curator's office back to mine. As always, they were fairly packed -- families, tourists, couples. People of all ages, colors, and at least a fair spectrum of classes. A middle-aged Latino man (accompanied by his two teenage children) came up to me. He nodded at my badge and asked if I worked at the museum; when I said I did, he asked if his daughter could ask me a question.

She explained that she would like to become an art curator, but didn't know how to go about it. You see, she had come to the museum for the first time as a child with one of her classes from LAUSD. She had stood in front of precisely the modern art that you contend is the exclusive domain of snide upper-class art snobs and was so moved by the experience that she brought her family to the museum, and over the years they made it a regular family outing (her favorite piece, she told me, was by Matisse; her brother's was a Picasso, and her father was torn between Rothko and Motherwell). Now, as a teenager beginning to think about college, she had decided she'd like to consider making modern art and art history into a career. But she wanted to know if there was a way she could volunteer at the museum in the meantime -- maybe even to meet and talk to some curators about her favorite artists.

I told her that, as a matter of fact, the museum offers a high school internship program, and that I'd be happy to email her further info. Her dad handed her his business card -- he's a carpenter -- on which she wrote her name and email for me. The next day I sent her the information, and she wrote back a few days later, saying she was going to apply to the program.

dontjumplarry: you owe that girl -- and her whole family, and countless others -- an apology.
posted by scody at 10:37 PM on October 7, 2012 [92 favorites]


Sorry for derailing the topic again. After reading more of the thread I see my point has already been addressed.

Let's all agree that defacing other people's art is pretty shitty.
posted by archagon at 10:37 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, those of us who don't get Rothko, you are not alone. It is just that you haven't yet come across that one painting that would make it all clear to you.

Los Angeles MoCA's collection of Rothkos did exactly this for me — partly because they aren't all masterpieces, so when you see a bunch of them side-by-side it helps make it clearer what about them makes the good Rothkos so good. And it's not at all surprising that anyone who only knows his work online think it's unimpressive; it suffers more than almost any other visual art I can think of in reproduction. Almost nothing important about a Rothko canvas can be seen in a photo of it; the depth of the color and the scale are vital to the experience.
posted by RogerB at 10:44 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of the things this thread is doing very well(and please, this isn't me being a snide jackanape) is explaining, by not being able to explain, why a Rothko painting can be a wonderful thing. You see, that's the point; if it could be explained in words than it wouldn't be necessary to make that painting. We can write endlessly about why the Rothko is so good but it will never make up for viewing the painting itself. And there is nothing wrong with that. That's one of the many things that very good painting can do.

And, thank you scody for that marvelous story.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:01 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Even my husband -- who, upon walking into the Rothko exhibit at the Tate Modern, while I was gaping in awe at the beauty and tranquility that surrounded me, was standing there puzzled wondering why the room was open to the public while they were trying to decide what color to paint it -- is pissed about this.
posted by KathrynT at 11:05 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm so excited that I'm going to get to see "No. 210/No. 211 (Orange)," in person. It's being unveiled at Crystal Bridges later this week. I live close enough that I'm going to wait until the crowds thin a bit before making the trip.

The same museum also has a small Pollock, Reclining Woman, and having never seen one of his larger paintings, I started to understand a bit. It grabbed me from across a room. I could see where he'd used the tube of paint to draw and then modified with a brush.

The first time I went around a corner to find this lovely lady, I felt stunned with joy. I had no idea that the painting was SO BIG. I looked around and saw that anyone facing her direction had a big, goofy, smitten grin. It was incredible.

Seeing these works in person is the important part of really appreciating them, I think. On a computer, sometimes they are pretty pictures, but sometimes not. The first time I saw O'Keefe's brush strokes, it just took my breath away.
posted by lilywing13 at 11:09 PM on October 7, 2012


The principal value of Rothko is it allows admirers to distance themselves from the lower classes, by flaunting their cultural capital. Read Bourdieu's Distinction.

It goes a long way to explaining these kinds of comments above: "Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners...I think that about covers it." Liking Rothko is a token that says, "I have knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners" – and a high social status.
posted by dontjumplarry at 8:22 PM on October 7 [9 favorites +] [!]


I think you're conflating Bourdieu's misrecognition with Marx's false consciousness there, comrade.

Just because an aesthetic experience is created, consciously or not, partly or primarily, through class relations, and even wielded as a form of class distinction, doesn't simply mean that the experience cannot be transcendental and that it "must" be hollow. A human being can very reasonably both simultaneously (or in an oscillatory way) believe that romantic love is entirely a cultural construct of dominant power relations in society *and* be head over heels in romantic love. Bourdieu is saying the there's no purity in aesthetics, and that impurity, consciously or not, wielded or not, is class-bound (in more granulated and dynamic ways than in the classic vein of Marxian analysis), but that's not to dismiss aesthetics as false.
posted by Bwithh at 11:58 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Simon Schama's Power of Art, the Rothko episode
posted by chaff at 12:05 AM on October 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Besides color and scale, the Rothko's also have texture. His paintings are like man-made versions of the ocean. Or the sky. A scratchy wool blanket that means something. Hanging dust in a partially darkened room. There are millions of things that are moments to each of us. Rothko seemed to understand how to create a few.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:38 AM on October 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


The principal value of Rothko is it allows admirers to distance themselves from the lower classes, by flaunting their cultural capital. Read Bourdieu's Distinction.


Talk about flaunting your cultural capital. "You bourgousie art snobs clearly could not possibly understand the suffering of the masses the way I do!"


I also work in an art museum. Admission is free. Everyone is welcome. We don't have a Rothko (though that would be wonderful) but for no money dollars, you and you and you and you are more than welcome to contemplate everyone from Rembrandt to Cy Twombly. Van Gogh to Gordon Parks. That is what I love about it, the variety of people who come in, open to be moved and changed.

I make it a mission of mine to dispel the notion that appreciating art is something that is only reserved for the privileged, because it really, really is absolutely not. The idea that it is is a poisonous lie that separates so many people from beautiful, transcendent experiences.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:11 AM on October 8, 2012 [14 favorites]


I used to spend a lot of time in the Rothko room when it was in the old Tate Gallery - before the Tate Modern opened in 2000, the whole collection was shown in what is now Tate Britain; you turned left for Old and Right for Modern. I usually turned left so that I could visit the Pre-Raphaelites and other figurative paintings. I was at an age when I wanted my pictures to be of things. But I always spent time in the Rothko room, and I wasn't sure why.

That said, I began to notice that people's demeanour changed when they entered the space. Calmer, perhaps, certainly quieter. Some people seemed to be taken aback. Perhaps it was because it was a specifically designed space, with what appeared to be muted light (the walls were light grey - a slightly different colour from the white walls of the rest of the museum), but you could see people change as they crossed the threshold, and I enjoyed watching that as much as the paintings themselves. It's upsetting to think that the room is now broken, given that the important thing is the space the paintings create rather than any particular work.

I like the idea of the Tate charging this person (is Vladimir whatsit his real name - all this anagram talk has left me unsure?) whatever it costs to get the painting restored. Tiresome exhibitionists do this sort of thing every so often - wasn't there someone who had the bright idea of pissing on Fountain recently? - and if they thought that they might be hugely out of pocket at the end of the day, perhaps they wouldn't do it. I must say the world wouldn't miss their interventions at all.
posted by Grangousier at 3:33 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


First degree philistinism. Sentence: death. No appeals.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on October 7 [4 favorites +] [!]


Agreed. But who is the guilty party?
posted by chavenet at 3:38 AM on October 8, 2012


I just want to add my thanks to everyone here discussing why Rothko may or may not be appreciated by the observer.
I've had many a heated discussion between my art historian friend and me on this very topic and possibly the contrast has been too stark. She speaks from enormous experience of modern art with reference to how various artists modified the artistic conversation etc. etc. and I try to understand and mostly disagree.

I think a lot of the problem we've had reaching consensus or even understanding each other on some topics (and the Rothko discussion is a particular recurring one, probably even coming up more often than all the YBA's put together) is that huge divide in experience. She can only talk about the works in their context, I can talk only about my experience of them as an uncultured philistine.
Seeing some viewpoints from in between these two stances has been incredibly illuminating.

For the record, my first experience of Rothko was in the room that was vandalised, and I have been back many times. I am still not a fan. The sesame seeds just made me cross, as does much of the Tate modern. They recently opened up these gorgeous oil tank rooms, and ruined them by putting art in them.
Yes I know, I'm a soulless philistine. But I would argue that I'm not a thoughtless one.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:42 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just hope that adding *&^%#@ scribbles to famous paintings will not become the new cool thing for *%&$ taggers to do.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:54 AM on October 8, 2012


This makes me unbearably sad.

The Rothko paintings are in a separate room. You walk into this room and you are surrounded by the paintings. There is something, yes, mystical about these paintings and their impression on your psyche as you stand before them. Many people have said that they can feel a sort of humming vibration that emanates from them.

It is one of my favorite places in all of London, to sit, to contemplate, to admire how Rothko managed to create something so simple yet so moving. The paintings are silent and perfect and austere.

This tagging guy has not added to the world. He has subtracted from it.
posted by vacapinta at 3:56 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes I know, I'm a soulless philistine.

But... you gotta have soul. If you wanna be super bad.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:57 AM on October 8, 2012


I make it a mission of mine to dispel the notion that appreciating art is something that is only reserved for the privileged, because it really, really is absolutely not. The idea that it is is a poisonous lie that separates so many people from beautiful, transcendent experiences.

This seems like a good spot to self-link to an essay I wrote, "How To Look At Art."
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:57 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This makes me unbearably sad.
Is this sadness more or less fascinating than the feeling you get from unvandalized Rothkos? In other words, what exactly do you mean by this "adding" and "subtracting?"

Have any of you people deriding Vladimir's work actually seen it, or are you just going by the low-res picture in the Guardian? I'm not saying it's legal or good to change someone else's highly-valued thing, but let's be consistent.
posted by mbrock at 5:10 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have any of you people deriding Vladimir's work actually seen it, or are you just going by the low-res picture in the Guardian? I'm not saying it's legal or good to change someone else's highly-valued thing, but let's be consistent.

The conversation has now officially turned a corner into both the willfully absurd and the bitterly sarcastic.

I gotta just come out and say it: Metafilter sucks at discussions of modern art. For a community that is, on the whole, thoughtful and broadminded, when it comes to this topic, things just fucking go south, man. I mean, there's just some really pathetic comments here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:16 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sincere question: have you ever actually seen one? (In real life, not online or in a book.)

I'll come down on the unaffected by Rothko side. I've seen several. I've been in the Rothko room at the Tate Modern. I like other modern artists. I can see the layered paint in his work but, essentially, I don't get calmer or more reflective or overwhelmed by it. I wanted to, but nothing much happened. (This doesn't mean I think it was right to tag it, of course.)

One of the more interesting experiences was when I decided to more or less order the art I saw in France by time. I wasn't exact about this -- I saw a Chagall exhibit early, as it was closing -- but generally I managed to save late 19th and 20th century art for the end. And it was . . . I'd understood, intellectually, that the Impressionists were a big change and there was controversy blah blah, but I'd never been able to experience the shift for myself in the same way.
posted by jeather at 5:17 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


flapjax, I just think it's interesting to look at the event from another perspective than "precious thing was vandalized by evil, stupid person." I'm not trying to be absurd or bitterly sarcastic. I really think it would be interesting to see it in person. If the original Rothko is transcendentally moving, how would it feel to see it scribbled on?
posted by mbrock at 5:24 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the original Rothko is transcendentally moving, how would it feel to see it scribbled on?

Fucking lousy.

For me. YMMV.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:32 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this sadness more or less fascinating than the feeling you get from unvandalized Rothkos? In other words, what exactly do you mean by this "adding" and "subtracting?"

Have any of you people deriding Vladimir's work actually seen it, or are you just going by the low-res picture in the Guardian? I'm not saying it's legal or good to change someone else's highly-valued thing, but let's be consistent.


Sure, I'll address this. I don't believe I need to see the tagging in order to (not) appreciate it. It was, as documented, a quick work, and it is clear from the artists own statement that his work is conceptual in nature even though it involves actual scribbling. More like Duchamp. You don't need to see the urinal to appreciate what was done. And in fact, the original urinal doesn't exist and it doesn't really matter to anybody.

This guy didn't create Art out of nothing. He destroyed something else in order to create. It seems a bit of a stretch, given we're talking about Rothko here, to imagine that what this kid created is greater than what was destroyed.

Regarding tagging, specifically. There's always been an uneasy truce between muralists and taggers and its generally understood that taggers don't tag murals. When they do, few people feel that new, greater Art has been created. Rather, that something has been lost and defaced.

That is what I mean by saying that this guy has subtracted from the world. That is, even if you place value on what he did, what he destroyed is greater. Thus, by simple mathematics, he has subtracted from the world.

It is not really an interesting discussion to be had here. At least not for me.
posted by vacapinta at 5:32 AM on October 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


vacapinta, I'm fascinated by these concepts of "greater," "losing," "subtracting," etc -- well, value. I'm not saying they're wrong, just interesting to explore -- this seems like one of few interesting ways to talk about this "tragedy."

I guess you've all done the discussion about iconoclasm a thousand times already. I don't know anything about Duchamp and so on, so for me it's very interesting. Or I'm just really pathetic.
posted by mbrock at 5:49 AM on October 8, 2012


Well, hell. I might as well go to the Rothko Chapel this afternoon. It's also neat to watch others' reactions to the deceptively simple black panels.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:01 AM on October 8, 2012


For context, since the Rothko paintings are discussed in pretty religious terms (mystical, transcendental, etc), I'm also interested in Ch'an/Zen, in which some of the founding patriarchs say things like: (Linji)
Those who have fulfilled the ten stages of bodhisattva practice are no better than hired field hands; those who have attained the enlightenment of the fifty-first and fifty-second stages are prisoners shackled and bound; arhats and pratyekabuddhas are so much filth in the latrine; bodhi and nirvana are hitching posts for donkeys.
This guy apparently sees some use in puncturing auras of holiness and transcendence. If you practice Zen and read something like this and feel outraged, you're advised to investigate your own reaction. If there's something I can read to understand how this stuff works in modern art, I'd be very interested!

(By no means am I suggesting that this Vladimir doofus is anything remotely like a spiritual master like Linji.)
posted by mbrock at 6:02 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a debate to be had and a point to be made about the idea that branding has, in some fields, come to replace technical skills - or even conceptual cleverness. I've seen Hirst's work exhibited; I don't much like it to begin with, finding it heavy-handed, avoidant and cold, but the fact that he has his employees churn out spot painting after spot painting and pickled this after pickled that detracts pretty badly from his claims to conceptual originality. In my view, if you want to be seen as mold-breaking, you ought not to keep stamping the same darn products out of the same darn mold over and over again yourself, especially for those prices. If what you sell is your ideas, you should try to have more than one idea to sell.

So yeah, I don't like Hirst, and I think that the line between 'studio produced' and 'mass produced' can be abused.

There is a point to be made against that trend.

If you are going to make that point, it should surely be because you see some value in works conceived and created by a single artist's vision and labour. Because you value that authenticity and do not care to see it casually disregarded.

If you see that value, you do not bloody deface an authentic work of art.

This isn't protesting the degradation of physical artistry. This is doing it, and then making a smart-alec point to get attention. Teenage stuff: causing offence and then saying, 'Oh, but I'm doing it IRONICALLY!' And wannabe stuff: getting your name associated with fine art by damaging it because that's much easier than making it. Same with the manifesto: refusing to say something clear doesn't necessarily mean you have anything real to say.

I don't mind calling it a work of art. It's just crappy art. As a work of art, it is subject to people's opinions, and as a work of art it is shallow and inane.

I do not believe for one moment that all avant-garde stuff is empty and pretentious, but like any high-prestige field, it attracts empty-headed pretenders. Making a point about non-artist-created works by damaging a work made by an artist is empty-headed and pretentious and suggests that you shouldn't use big words you don't understand.
posted by Kit W at 6:39 AM on October 8, 2012


What a sad sack of a person who can't create anything positive with his artistic aspirations and has to settle for notoriety while pissing on other people's pleasure. Free museums with uncovered paintings is a public good, which you are destroying, you petty, horrible, little man with your delusions of art. What is wrong with this guy.

The principal value of Rothko is it allows admirers to distance themselves from the lower classes, by flaunting their cultural capital. Read Bourdieu's Distinction.

Sorry, but Bourdieu is probably more inaccessible than Rothko. So what's the list of artists that we are allowed to like or does all art serve the same purpose? I see 5-year-olds jockeying for cultural capital all the time drawing daisies and trees and stuff.
posted by ersatz at 6:45 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


dontjumplarry: you owe that girl -- and her whole family, and countless others -- an apology.

Do you honestly not see the signalling advantage of tastes? People can emulate the habits of other classes. Thorstein Veblen wrote a lot about pecuniary emulation.
posted by Human Flesh at 7:03 AM on October 8, 2012


People can emulate the habits of other classes.

People of any and all classes can be moved and inspired by great art. To suggest that people of 'lower classes' are only pretending to enjoy art that is somehow the exclusive province (according to who?) of 'higher classes' is some seriously patronizing (and, ironically, classist) bullshit.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:24 AM on October 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


Signalling doesn't have to be conscious. Tastes can have both terminal and instrumental utility.
posted by Human Flesh at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2012


1. This is the worst sort of "conceptual" art, where some pre-existing work which others enjoyed quite a bit is irrevocably changed at the whim of a sophomoric hack.

2. This is also the sort of thing that makes opening up museums to encourage more varied visitor engagement (aside from standing 5 feet back and thinking thoughtfully about a work, which is great too, but not the end-all-be-all of museum-going) really hard to sell some curatorial staff on
posted by smirkette at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do think that responses to this vandalism are interesting. Mind you, I'm not defending the vandalism. I think drawing on something that doesn't belong to you is bollocks, criminal, and a dick move.

However, I'm genuinely struggling to see how we can know that "Duchamp was a thousand times more brilliant than [the vandal] can ever dream" by actually looking at the art in question. Is it the context we have about Duchamp, the fact that we know his history as a painter? Because the artwork itself is similarly unmoving in both cases for me--precious, pretentious, overly-clever. At most it makes me tick up the corner of my mouth in acknowledgment of the Clever, but I don't appreciate the artist's skill or time involved.

One of the comments on the Jesus-painting-fiasco was to the effect that the original artwork had apparently been painted in two hours. There was another comment about how it was fine because it meant "one less kitschy Jesus painting in the world." I find it nigh-on impossible not to find class arguments there--that "kitschy Jesus paintings" are unimportant and a dime a dozen. Maybe there really is no difference though between a fresco painted in two hours and a black light Jesus poster except in age. Maybe both are art and deserve to be valued. Maybe neither are and it's all in the framing? That seemed to be Duchamp's point, and I struggle to see, then, why this vandal isn't creating art if his intention was to create art, any less than Duchamp's. Or do we only let artists whose artwork is only apparently clever and not especially skilled into the museums when we see their prior body of work and are reassured about their skills even if they're not in evidence in particular artwork?

Because if it's about emotional response then it's feasible someone could have an emotional response to this vandal's work and then therefore that work is elevated to art.

I'm not speaking as some sort of philistine, incidentally. I come from a family of artists--both my parents had arts degrees, I was raised on day trips to the MoMa, I came thisclose to going to art school myself and my sister has an MFA in fine art. I'll admit a stronger preference for representational art (I would be sadder if this were done to a painting by John Singer Sargent), and I'll say straight out that abstract art has always been more interesting for me as a philosophical exercise than a creative experience. But that's simply true for this example of "abstract art," too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:46 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Particularly relevant, I think, in the wiki entry on Duchamp's Fountain are the notes about performance artists who tried to pee in it:
Several performance artists have attempted to "contribute" to the piece by urinating in it.

South African born artist Kendell Geers, rose to international notoriety in 1993 when, at a show in Venice, he urinated into the Fountain.[17]

Swedish artist Björn Kjelltoft urinated in the Fountain at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1999.[18]

In spring 2000, Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi, two performance artists, who in 1999 had jumped on Tracey Emin's installation-sculpture My Bed in the Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain, went to the newly opened Tate Modern and urinated on the Fountain which was on display. However, they were prevented from soiling the sculpture directly by its Perspex case. The Tate, which denied that the duo had succeeded in urinating into the sculpture itself,[19] banned them from the premises stating that they were threatening "works of art and our staff." When asked why they felt they had to add to Duchamp's work, Chai said, "The urinal is there – it's an invitation. As Duchamp said himself, it's the artist's choice. He chooses what is art. We just added to it."[15]
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:50 AM on October 8, 2012


Christ, what an artsole.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:03 AM on October 8, 2012


Eno pissed in the Duchamp urinal once.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:09 AM on October 8, 2012


I suppose one could burn down an entire art museum (without killing anyone) to make some personal point about art. Even if the person had some relatively sound "reason" for doing so he/she would still be a selfish asshole, and so is this guy.
posted by rosswald at 8:27 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just don't pee on the signature.
posted by Artw at 8:36 AM on October 8, 2012


Hard to get to worked up over this. Insurance will pay for the painting to be restored and the Tate will get a pro instead of a crazy old lady.

Assuming it can be restored. Rothko's technique, as has been noted elsewhere, makes it devilishly hard to care for. The painting may be destroyed.

Those supporting the vandal have made a clear choice in valuing performance art over visual art - not preferring, but valuing. You believe Rothko's work is worthless, and the opinions of those who enjoy it also worthless. The only true art for you is in ephemeral action that destroys. We are not allowed to have the solace and enjoyment of an artifact if someone calling themselves an artist desires to piss on it like a dog for your entertainment.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:50 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As the old phrase goes, Modern Art = I could do that + You didn't
posted by ciderwoman at 8:53 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like art in a "don't know much about it, know what I like" kind of way. I love to see art in museums--the scale and texture is really something. 20 years ago my mom and I saw a Goergia O'Keeffe exhibit and it has really stayed with me. "What I like" tends to be just about anything in a museum, where I wander around going, "ooh" and "aah" a lot.

But! a year or two ago I read a book or long article about an extensive fraud perpretrated by a forger in (IIRC) England. Not only did the forger sell fake paintings, but he also stole exhibition catalogs from archives and libraries and inserted false pages showing his forgeries, and returned them to the archives. Since contemporary exhibition catalogs are one way of proving a painting's provenance, this had the effect of giving his forgeries weight--look, this was shown in this 1969 exhibition along with other paintings by Famous Artist Of The Day. I think he also forged letters associated with chain of ownership, possibly by bleaching existing letters and forging the text over an authentic signature, but I might be conflating that in my memory with something else.

In the book, various people deeply involved in the art world were quoted as saying that, although the forger had been caught, there was no way to know how many of his forgeries were still out there, looking like the real thing, and no way of knowing how corrupted these resources that are used in estabilshing provenance are.

That book pretty much destroyed any notion I had that art can be truly understood and evaluated. A painting by Famous Painter is worth tens of thousands of dollars; a forgery is worth nothing. The problem is that the very people who know art the best can't tell the difference, in some cases, between the real thing and forgery. A previously unknown painting by Famous Painter, whose provenance is established, is written about as if the viewer sees wonderful things in it. Later, it turns out that the provenance was forged, too, and those critics look like schmucks.

This happens in literature, too--wasn't it Doris Lessing who sent a manuscript to her publisher under a fake name and had it rejected? But this book made all of art criticism and valuation seem like its foundation was so much sand and cloud-dust.
posted by not that girl at 8:59 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suppose one could burn down an entire art museum (without killing anyone) to make some personal point about art.

When Herostratus burnt down the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which was considered one of the 7 wonders of the world, to become famous, the Ephesians tried to strike every mention of his name from the records to dissuade imitators. For similar reasons I don't care about this guy's manifesto.

Herostratus (or the search for immortality) by Fernando Pessoa is an interesting book that is tangential to this discussion, but I don't think it's been translated to English.
posted by ersatz at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The thing that gets to me about vandalism like this is the degree to which the vandals are so certain that their worldview is correct, and that it isn't going to change. I have this perspective on how the world is. I am aware that others have a different perspective and that they are going to be horrified by what I am going to do. But I am going to do this thing, because in my 24 years on this earth I have had experiences that transcend their experiences. I am going to teach them something by horrifying and angering them.

In some sense it seems in addition to a deficit of empathy, it requires a lack of imagination. I can't imagine that I might be wrong about this idea, I can't imagine that others might know things that I don't know, I can't imagine that it takes any expertise to do that thing, I can't imagine that things that I don't value are valuable. I can't imagine that I will think differently about things when I am 40.
posted by Killick at 9:04 AM on October 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


ooOOOoooooooo

Do not attempt to read this whole thread

Or your chains will be heavier than mine

oooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOoooo
posted by the ghost of shakespeherian at 9:16 AM on October 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


The thing that always amazes me is how much people like Rothko, even people who don't like any other 20thC art seem to have a place in their heart for him, which is amazing considering the level of abstraction.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:26 AM on October 8, 2012


The book you're thinking of, not that girl, is Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote Art History. It's a great book. Thing is, though, people were suspicious about a lot of the forgeries being passed off. The faked provenance made things confusing, but at some point, questions were raised.

Forgeries and the art market and valuations are an interesting topic. I've been told that frequently, as forgeries age, they become more obvious in certain ways. The Vermeer forger who fooled the Nazis - his stuff looks pretty crappy to our eyes, but in his own time period, it worked, at least for a little while. (I wonder if it's anything like period movies, where twenty years later you wonder about the 70's hairstyles on all the Regency women.) But I'm sure there are some things out there that pass unnoticed. Sometimes it bothers me very much, sometimes it doesn't. A forger has taken a shortcut to arrive somewhere, and that feels pretty unfair to me, but the rest of my feelings about the topic shift slightly whenever I happen to think about it and whether I'm thinking of contemporary art, or antiquities.

Over time, stuff shakes out. Art is forgotten and rediscovered. People find new ways to recontextualize it and make things that were overlooked important again. Canon is established and challenged and broken down and rebuilt again. I work for a museum, and enjoy seeing a painting take on one context in one curator's hands, and another when a different curator places it in a different exhibition, surrounded by different works. I work with students, many of them artists themselves, and I love feeling the excitement they have when they encounter something that moves them powerfully. That's why I love seeing people in our galleries looking intently at art. They may decide they hated it. But at least they looked.
posted by PussKillian at 9:27 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let's all agree that defacing other people's art is pretty shitty.
posted by archagon at 1:37 AM on October 8 [1 favorite +] [!]


Unless everyone agrees the art is "crappy" and we're adding something twee like monsters.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:34 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


UbuRoivas: "From the 3rd link: "The Metropolitan police art squad is investigating an incident at the museum"

I wonder what the Metropolitan police art squad do for the other 364 days per year?
"

Paint, of course!
posted by symbioid at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


From web images of Rothkos I'm inclined to believe I could paint one in ten minutes with a decorator"s brush. What am I missing?
posted by w0mbat at 7:44 PM on October 7 [2 favorites +] [!]


The point. No, really. I'm going to try and explain this in a very logical sense, since you don't seem to be involved in a very artsy lifestyle.
You have to look at the history. Art hasn't been about technical achievement for some time. Yeah, we still get artists who *do* things that no one has ever done before, but it's not often. And especially not with painting. And so we evolve. This same thing happens with the individual artist, too, not just the history of art as a whole. If you are trained classically, you spend a lot of your time trying to visually recreate something from real life, while all the time trying to maintain and enhance some basic principles of design: balance, texture, contrast, rhythm, etc. And for a long time, photo realism was the pinnacle of technical achievement. But eventually, it's all been done before, and so then people started branching out, even rebelling in some cases.
So artists began trying to create pieces of art that weren't photorealistic, or hell, even representative of anything [this is where abstractionism comes in], while still trying to keep those original fundamentals.
So here's Rothko. He found another, new way of making a piece with all those great attributes, with great subtlety and rhythm, with his color fields. That's just part of their appeal. The other is that they're huge. And not just size-wise, their presence is really something. I've not seen one in person, but I've heard many, many people remark on their element. Someone up-thread mentioned that seeing one was breathtaking the same way seeing mountains, or rivers or other landscapes are. Imagine being in a confined space, indoors, and being confronted with something that can give you that same awe? It's got to be phenomenal.
So, yeah. You might be able to recreate, physically, a Rothko. But that even may be iffy, because he was a color-subtlety master. But it won't be the same because you wouldn't be coming from the same place, and it wouldn't have been your idea, and it wouldn't mean as much, to you, or to us.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:45 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


That book pretty much destroyed any notion I had that art can be truly understood and evaluated. A painting by Famous Painter is worth tens of thousands of dollars; a forgery is worth nothing. The problem is that the very people who know art the best can't tell the difference, in some cases, between the real thing and forgery. A previously unknown painting by Famous Painter, whose provenance is established, is written about as if the viewer sees wonderful things in it. Later, it turns out that the provenance was forged, too, and those critics look like schmucks.

If I may, I think you may be confusing great Art with Art made by great Artists. There is a difference. Namely that not everything a great artists does is good. Picasso did a lot of crappy stuff.

To use an analogy, a lost tape is discovered of a song that John Lennon wrote and performed in the 60's when he was in the Beatles. Everyone oohs and aahs over it. Yes, it sounds like a Lennon piece. Just listen to it. If you listen carefully you can hear premonitions of his later compositions. A bit raw but still beautiful. Later it is discovered to be a complete forgery. Everyone was fooled. Turns out people are good at deceiving themselves.

Would you conclude from that that Music is incapable of being understood and evaluated?
posted by vacapinta at 9:49 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Liking Rothko is a token that says, "I have knowledge, wisdom, understanding, taste, manners" – and a high social status.

I have none of these things, and very little appreciation for modern art in general, but I fucking love me some Rothko.

I didn't really even know who he was until I saw No. 14, 1960 in person, and I was like holy shit that looks just like how the inside of my head feels.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I may not be a huge fan of abstract expressionism, but I dislike conceptual art almost as much as I dislike vandalism, and I hope they catch this guy and throw him in Hirst's art dungeon to make spot paintings for the rest of his years.
posted by Anything at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2012


Many people have said that they can feel a sort of humming vibration that emanates from them.

Yes, the whole thing is very eerie and beautiful. Rothko was all about spirituality. Above all, these paintings are meant to communicate. There is the medium (which to those who have never seen one up close is the only thing there is to it) and then there is the message. The message is what's important.
posted by ob at 10:17 AM on October 8, 2012


That book pretty much destroyed any notion I had that art can be truly understood and evaluated.

Okay, but in this scenario, do you think that the forged art doesn't have intrinsic value of its own as art? Put aside for a moment the intent to defraud and imagine the possibility that the artist's motivation was also to create works that had the same resonance as the originals. I agree that attempting to evaluate the relative merits of different pieces of art is a game only won by not playing, but I don't see how the presence of critically accepted fraudulent works dismisses the possibility of understanding art.
posted by elizardbits at 11:17 AM on October 8, 2012


*dismisses the possibility of attempting to understand art.
posted by elizardbits at 11:18 AM on October 8, 2012


I spent today in the Louvre then the Pompidou Centre. The big Rothko was one of the day's highlights for me and this is a sucky story to come home to. Fuck that arsehole.
posted by shelleycat at 12:04 PM on October 8, 2012


prize bull octorok: "I was like holy shit that looks just like how the inside of my head feels."

What's even scarier is opening that on a computer monitor that literally reflects your face in the painting.
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:34 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm another "I don't know art but I know what I like" person. The piece that had the single biggest impact on my life was painting of three triangles, in different shades of blue, floating on a peaceful dark blue background. My aunt, who studied art in college and likes to paint, gave it to my parents before I was born.

As a child, I would stare at that painting for hours. It was the first picture I ever saw that wasn't of a person, place, or thing, and it blew my tiny little mind. Just triangles being triangles, hanging around in a sea of tranquil blue because...because they could, I guess.

That painting was my first encounter with the abstract in art. The first time I ever saw a painting that wasn't about something, or telling a story, or trying to accurately capture a scene. It was just triangles on blue, and it was awesome. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I think of that painting.

As an adult, I'd been to my local museum, and a few other museums, and seen some great works by legendary artists that I really admired. But nothing ever made me feel like my aunt's painting. And then I was watching Mad Men, the episode where Cooper had a Rothko hanging in his office, when Kenny Cosgrove said ""It's like looking into something very deep. You could fall into it." I saw that Rothko on my TV screen and I just knew. It gave me the feeling that my aunt's painting gave me. That amazing sea of red shades, stretching endlessly on....

I've not been privileged to see a Rothko in person. I'm dying to see a Rothko in person. And I can tell you, as someone who doesn't know art, who only knows of Rothko what she saw on a TV show and read on Wikipedia and viewed on Google Images, I damn near cried when I read this post. I felt like Vladimir Umanets had come into my house and scribbled on my aunt's painting.

Vladimir Umanets, you're a hurtful, vicious, son of a bitch.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:08 PM on October 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


I gotta just come out and say it: Metafilter sucks at discussions of modern art. For a community that is, on the whole, thoughtful and broadminded, when it comes to this topic, things just fucking go south, man. I mean, there's just some really pathetic comments here.

AKA, why you gotta think differently from me.

That is what I mean by saying that this guy has subtracted from the world. That is, even if you place value on what he did, what he destroyed is greater. Thus, by simple mathematics, he has subtracted from the world.

There is nothing simple (or, really, mathematical) about art appreciation.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:25 PM on October 8, 2012


This vandalism leaves me horrified. As someone else who has appreciated the Rothko Chapel in Houston, sitting in front of them, lit from above was as close to spiritual as I've come. This is pure desecration.
posted by arcticseal at 3:03 PM on October 8, 2012


When I first heard about this, I had a nice moral clarity about buddy being a irredeemable asshole. As the saying goes, 'it takes a carpenter to build a barn, but any jackass with a sledgehammer can knock it down.' Whatever buddy's message is (and I have no inclination to read his manifesto or hear his justification), it cannot be as great as the work he has vandalized. He had no right to do what he did, to rudely insert himself into this work. It should be as offensive to every civilized person just as much as the guy who took a hammer to Michelangelo's Pieta.

Then I started thinking about other damaged works. Specifically, about Rodin's Thinker in Cleveland. It was damaged by a pipe-bomb planted by the Weathermen. At the time, it was decided not to restore it, due to a wish to preserve the integrity of Rodin's casting process. And looking at it now, it's definitely a more interesting piece because of that damage. There is a brutal contrast between the placid pose of the thinker, against the violence done to the base. The fleeting explosion is caught and frozen forever, just as Rodin's original piece. As horrifying and repulsive as trying to destroy a Rodin is, there's no denying that the act of violence changed and added to the work. This Thinker is now unique among all Thinkers.

So there's a similarity there, of the intrusion of someone else's narrative onto the original work, in a way that is inescapable for everyone else, forever.

Personally, I find the damaged Rodin fascinating, and the damaged Rothko horrific. In finding the one fascinating, do I justify the act done to it, and done to the other? In appreciating the changed Thinker, do I validate the act of violence? How can I see the beauty in the one and not the other? How is my appreciation of the two the least bit consistent? Is it a matter of what I prefer beforehand being altered? It has to be more than that, right? Why would blowing up a Rodin be 'fine', but not scribbling on a Rothko?

I don't know. I know only that I have a lot more thinking to do. Whatever it is, whether it is restored or not, Rothko's work has been changed forever, in that buddy has inserted himself into its history, and I don't like this one bit. Fuck you, pal. Fuck you forever.

And if I ever meet the Weathermen, I don't know what I'd say.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:23 PM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Painters often grouped into the Color Field movement (though some of them were certainly grumpy about the label) were the artists whose work brought me into a love of abstract art: Rothko, yes, but also early Stella, and Frankenthaler and Diebenkorn and Jack Bush. I had the great fortune to take art history in my public high school, where I learned as much as I could about abstract expressionism, color field work, and the crossover between abstract and figurative work that fascinated many of the painters whose work I loved.

The summer after I took that class, my Russian class spent the summer of 1984 studying in Leningrad. As American teenagers with our own Intourist guide/nanny squad, we got to go to the Hermitage at least once a week, and there were rarely lines; the only person in any given room was likely to be the dezhornaya (older woman with a dust mop, in the museum scenario; in hotels, the dezhornaya is the floor's key keeper), and we all had our favorite areas. Mine was the Matisse room, and the first time I found it, I burst into tears. This wasn't just because I love Matisse, though this is true, but because I knew that Diebenkorn had spent time in this same room. That's when I really began to understand artistic movements, lineage and homage and deliberate breaking away, only to circle back and work through the same influences again.

Rothko puzzled some of it out in a speech at the Pratt Institute in 1958, in which he says "I have never thought that painting a picture has anything to do with self-expression. It is a communication about the world to someone else."
posted by catlet at 3:31 PM on October 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The thing that gets to me about vandalism like this is the degree to which the vandals are so certain that their worldview is correct, and that it isn't going to change.

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity", eh?
posted by ersatz at 3:59 PM on October 8, 2012


I don't know enough about what Yeats was referring to to want to draw any parallels. But I think there's a difference between lacking all conviction and not being 100% sure that your perspective consists of irrevocable truths. It just seems that religious zealots, libertarian politicians, vandals like this, terrorists, etc. are missing some kind of skill that most of the rest of us have, a learned allowance for doubt. Maybe it doesn't even take doubt, just a little curiosity about how others might think differently. In any case, having that skill keeps us from acting in extreme ways, and I think that's a good thing.
That doubt doesn't stop most people from having any conviction, or from acting on their convictions. But I think as we age, most of us get better at seeing shades of grey, and for some reason a few people get stuck in some kind of terminal everything-is-black-and-white adolescence.
posted by Killick at 5:21 PM on October 8, 2012


I haven't seen the Rothkos. I have seen paintings that vibrate with energy, Australian Aboriginal works. This is a great thread, I think.

About 2 years ago I was watching a Live Art performance when a guy who had been heckling was invited to articulate his criticisms, as a way of diluting the disruptive effect he was having. Once everyone was looking at him he sh*t in his hands and rubbed it all over his face (by this time I had my eyes closed.) At this point one of the producers asked him very firmly to leave. Security had been called but he sloped off before they got there.

It was childish, narcissistic, offensive and abusive. It was attention-seeking and about the fellow's ego, and his delight in spoiling something another person had worked at, like a playground bully. For a soundtrack it had that horrible snicker of destructive laughter that's a memorable part of Bevis and Butthead, and that Colin Turnbull describes as part of the atmosphere in The Mountain People.

It turned out he had done this at a number of Live events, and had some spiel explaining it as his 'practice' and a commentary on contemporary art. I wonder if he's the same guy with the Rothko? Because I think the vandalism (and offensiveness) is quite similar.

Yeah, good thread. Good for you, Metafilter.

And Oh my god, there had been a classfull of Sixth Formers present. You should have heard them phoning home afterwards - 'Mum, you'll never guess what just happened...' Scar'd for life I shouldn't wonder. Or scared, whatever. Damned apostrophes.
posted by glasseyes at 6:47 PM on October 8, 2012


Very interesting discussion so far. I enjoy paintings generally and some of the Rothkos I've seen. But I've never had an experience of joy from paintings that is comparable to what I've gotten from a great song, book, movie, or tv show.

Paintings at best seem to inspire in me subtler, more refined feelings of appreciation or inquiry rather than powerful emotions or blow-me-away delight.

Does anyone get equally powerful pleasure from paintings as from other forms of media? Is it just a matter of temperament, or does more knowledge about art help?
posted by shivohum at 7:45 PM on October 8, 2012


Once everyone was looking at him he sh*t in his hands and rubbed it all over his face..I wonder if he's the same guy with the Rothko?

Nah, that sounds more like the Pinkism-eye movement to me.
posted by sendai sleep master at 8:46 PM on October 8, 2012


Unless everyone agrees the art is "crappy" and we're adding something twee like monsters.

That's not defacing, that's repurposing.

There are qualitative judgements one can apply to define the difference, but here are two big ones:

1. The thrift store paintings were the property of the person repurposing them.

2. The thrift store paintings had no particular place in everyone's cultural discourse.

You can do what you like with your own property; the definition of vandalism is that you're doing to something that ain't yours. And frequently, to something that is, in some way, publicly owned. (As Edith Nesbit would have it: 'I must not pick the public flowers, / They are not MINE, but they are OURS.')

Particular museums or individuals can own a Rothko painting, but his art has had such an impact on the surrounding culture that it's generally agreed that whoever owns one has a moral duty, if not a legal one, to preserve it so that it isn't lost from the surrounding culture.

An anonymous painting with no impact on the general understanding of culture, that you buy in a thrift store and take home, is a completely different kind of ownership. Personally I feel rather sorry for the people who painted them - it's a shame their stuff ended up in a thrift store in the first place - but the work isn't being 'defaced'. It's being treated as a found object - and found object art is a lively and thriving field. (Check out this fun stuff, for instance.)
posted by Kit W at 12:49 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, I find the damaged Rodin fascinating, and the damaged Rothko horrific. In finding the one fascinating, do I justify the act done to it, and done to the other?

what if the thinker was a one-of-a-kind piece that had been carved from marble, would you feel the same sort of horror as you feel about the rothko damage?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:32 AM on October 9, 2012


Rothko vandal arrested over defaced painting
posted by Anything at 2:08 AM on October 9, 2012


Yay! Now that this prole art threat has been vanquished, the Metropolitan Police Art Squad can relax again. But for how long?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:57 AM on October 9, 2012


It's recluse, safehouse time.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:08 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now that this prole art threat has been vanquished, the Metropolitan Police Art Squad can relax again. But for how long?

Next week on Art Squad! Simon and Angela comb the tiny back alleys of London in search of two enormous, stolen Henry Moores, but stumble over Banksy instead! A cat-and-mouse chase through London's toniest art districts ensues! Will they nab the elusive Banksy? Will the giant, curvaceous Moore slabs be returned to their rightful owners? Tune in next week!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:31 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Same Art time! Same Art channel!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:02 AM on October 9, 2012


Welcome to the Our Art Art Hour!
posted by lazaruslong at 8:15 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I finally read this Yellowism Manifesto. Total gibberish. The kind of angsty, "but you guys just don't GET IT," bullshit that every second year art school dropout wrote at 20. I'd at least hoped he'd had some kind of philosophy that could make this interesting on some level, but it's pure artcube.
posted by cmoj at 2:08 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: it's pure artcube
posted by b1tr0t at 2:15 PM on October 9, 2012


2 artcubes, a pint of water and some veggies will make you a nice soup.
posted by arcticseal at 2:19 PM on October 9, 2012


A tribute to the damaged Rothko in rice
posted by PussKillian at 7:34 AM on October 12, 2012


Pink rice, that's not good.
posted by glasseyes at 6:41 PM on October 15, 2012


« Older T. Boone Pickens and other wealthy, elderly Oklaho...  |  This summer, Gawker began soli... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments