Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond
This morning I read through several sections of Richmond's book and made the decision to cherry-pick what would be most interesting and relevant to the discussions on this blog. I found a sentence at the end of section 1 of Chapter 6 that triggered my imagination: Mark Rothko once said that the reason he didn't give titles to his mature paintings was because he was afraid that words would paralyze the viewer's imagination. This challenged my approach, since I was taught that a well-constructed title is important. I was also taught never to use the label Untitled. Now I'm thinking, isn't that silly? Maybe Rothko was correct. I can see both sides of the coin. On the one side, a title gives the viewer a sense of the artist's intention. On the other side, the viewer's interpretation could be more important than the artist's. So, I thought I'd look at a few titled paintings to evaluate this.
This is a painting by Picasso. Looking at it, I would have assigned a title that had something to do with sadness or despair (over having lost her clothes and not knowing where to find them ??). Picasso's title is "Blue Nude." It's a good title because "blue" could mean her mood as well as the dominant hue in the painting. But, if I read the title as meaning the hue it would make me feel less emotionally connected to the painting because I'd think that Picasso was just experimenting with the color blue (or a new tube of paint).
This painting by Richard Diebenkorn looks architectural to me, but mostly like a study in color design. His title is Ocean Park 67. I never would have thought that, so his title definitely influences how I think about this painting and limits my imagination.
This painting by Andrew Wyeth speaks to me about island life and the beauty of the wind blowing through carefully hung fishing nets. There's an ephemeral beauty to the work that also reminds me of life itself - aging and dying. Wyeth's title for the work is "Pentecost." Wow, that title really expands my imagination! Here's a title that enhances the viewer's imagination rather than limits it.
And then, there's the obvious title. I look at this painting by Edward Hopper and think "rotary phone." Guess what? His title is Rotary Phone.
So, let's come full circle back to Rothko. Below is a picture of two people standing before one of Rothko's "untitled" paintings. I wonder what they're thinking. What would you be thinking, and what title springs from your imagination?
Also, do you assign titles to your paintings?