Street Art Versus Rothko

I’ve got to be honest. I spent about 40 minutes today at the Mark Rothko exhibit at the Tate Modern. I also spent 2-3 hours wandering around East London showing my parents’ friends some street art. You know what I liked more? The street art.

I like plenty of non street art artwork. The other day I saw my first Bruegel in person and loved it. So although I like a lot of street art, I don’t not love Rothko’s work just because he isn’t street art.

The reason I didn’t like the Rothko exhibit as much is because it takes an hour to get something out of most of that work. And even then, you’re just completely guessing. One of my friends, who really enjoyed the exhibit by the way, said “well I think this one’s about depression.” I asked why, and she told me “Well he was depressed at the end of his life and I think this was a later work.” So really, she had no idea if the piece was about depression or how he enjoyed reading the newspaper or nothing at all. At least, she couldn’t gather any of that information from the piece itself.

Rothko was clearly a very talented painter, I just wished he’d painted a thing or even just something abstract with more to it than a square or two with really great brush strokes and technique.

Now, I like Aakash Nihalani’s work taping cubes in New York, because it forces us to think differently. Rothko on the other hand painted things that would look really good in a resturant or hotel lobby. They are would be good bits of background. He does have a few pieces that I think surpass what I’m saying up him, but I still can’t see why Rothko deserves such a large exhibit at the Tate Modern.

After Rothko, I went took my parents (who know a fair deal about street art) and their four friends (who knew nothing about street art) on a walk walk around Shoreditch. They loved it. In fact, one of them half jokingly said that they should have just skipped visiting the V&A yesterday because they could have gotten just as good of an exhibit walking around town.

Bortusk Leer Shoreditch

Clearly, art is out of touch with the real world. Normal people, educated or otherwise, identify far more with one of Bortusk Leer’s monsters than what’s hanging in the Tate Modern.

Earlier this week, my english teacher defined what he thought it meant for a work to be literary. You have to get more from it as you read/view it more. Maybe that won’t be true of all street art, but I’m not sure it is true of much of the Rothko work I saw, and it certainly is true of some street art. Take Faile or Swoon. I get more from their work each time I see it.

Hopefully this makes some sense. I really wanted to go to the Tate Modern today and love Rothko. I didn’t. I paid £10 for an experience of lower quality than what I got for free an hour later. The whole experience makes me think that maybe I don’t want to see street art in the Tate Modern. It seems like they don’t see their job as being accessible to the public, but that is the job of street art.