Having just returned from a whirlwind visit to London, which included taking in exhibitions by Paula Rego and Georgia O’Keeffe I was reminded of a previous visit in 2008, which included taking in the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern. It was probably my first experience of an exhibition which was so massively popular that you could barely move or see the work.
I have been to several since, including Monet, Picasso and the recent O’Keeffe exhibition at the Tate.
It is a bit like seeing one of your favourite bands in a stadium. It’s not the best situation but it is either that or nothing at all. The Rothko visit inspired this poem.
Rothko (Tate Modern 2008)
Room by room, guided
Through the great man’s imagination,
We do not need our own.
Each pulsating colour, eviscerated,
Every throbbing brush stroke, explained.
Commentary in one hand, notebook in the other,
Wrestling with the unrelenting rhythm of red.
Stripped of context, re-set and renumbered.
Immensity, scaled back.
Guidebooks, handsets, silent colours screaming,
How black is black?
How like black is darkness?
Modern masters strip the layers,
Ravaging ultra-violet reveals the red mystique
Of strokes, glazing, mixing.
Dissection undivided dulls the artist’s voice.
Dimly lit, secretive and alone
The brown gray purple sea at night
Breathes life into the room,
Echoing like the desert blues
Discreet, vibrant and timeless.
Finally framed, black on grays
Betray no bleeding edges.
No knife wounds.
No gashed yearning.
The wind is arctic,
The exit beckons.