Famed Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko believed that art was a powerful form of communication. “The fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions,” he said in an interview in 1956. “The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”
Through canvases of floating forms and glowing, suspended rectangles, Rothko sought to create a profound connection between artist, canvas, and viewer. What’s more, he asserted that his works not only expressed human emotion, but also stimulated psychological and emotional experiences in those who witnessed them. “Painting is not about an experience,” he told LIFE magazine in 1959. “It is an experience.”
While Rothko believed his paintings spoke for themselves—and routinely derided art critics who attempted to explain his practice with words—that didn’t stop him from developing his own theories about the power of art and the creative process. Throughout his career, from the late 1920s until his death in 1970, the New York–based painter amassed a body of writing and gave a number of interviews that reveal his views on how creativity can be unlocked and encouraged. Below, we highlight several of Rothko’s words of wisdom… read more.