If I had to name ONE artist who influenced me the most, it would probably be Mark Rothko. Born in Latvia in 1903 he immigrate to the USA with his family when he was around 10 years old. Rothko’s early work was influenced himself by German expressionists such as Kirchner and Nolde and he dabbled with expressionism and cubism himself. However, it is his later work, often referred to as ‘color-field’ style, that took a hold of me.
In 1995 I travelled to New York on my first ‘Art-Flight‘ to find new and emerging art and inspiration. I visited countless museums and galleries. But I found the art-scene disappointing. Sure, there were the masters in the museums, but I found little inspiring emerging art. Much of the work – to my by then mostly Irish sensibility – seemed to plagiarize one another. As if, forced by the harsh reality of life in NYC, where rent alone could consume a moderate income, artists all jumped on the ONE style that seemed to sell. These works appeared all over the city in many of the small galleries and open studios, was poorly executed (warped canvasses, dirty paper, haphazard framing, etc…) but sold like ‘hot buns’ leaving little room for anything else.
After NYC I travelled to Houston, Texas, with little to no expectation to find great art much less a thriving emerging art scene. How completely naive this assumption, for Houston, I soon learned, was the hot-spot for all things art. Fuelled by a booming economy (mostly around healthcare and medicine), most of the city’s artists had found wealthy sponsors and patrons. Even bartering art for other services (dental or medical treatment, housing, cars, etc…) was common. Allowing artists here, to focus on their work, without the need to commercialize their work in order to survive. Houston was the place, where I found incredible variety and innovation pouring out of the many studios I visited.
My extended stay culminated in a visit to the Rothko Chapel. It was the icing on the cake and simply blew me away.
In this space, which was probably the closest I ever came to finding religion, I could spend hours. Thinking. Seeing. Sitting. Doing nothing. And in my head, I heard the music of another great artist, whose works I frequently listened to while painting: Philip Glass.
But more about that tomorrow.