Not a Rothko, 2013

No, It’s Not a Rothko

© 2013 by Lili Bernard

I’ve been trying to reconcile within me all the time taken away from my art creation, because of the dozens of hours I must spend weekly, in graduate art school, reading and writing about the philosophies of White male atheistic Marxian theorists, which have absolutely nothing to do with my art-making practice. It pains me to look at all the unfinished paintings, resting dormant on my easels, and the incomplete mixed media works in my art studio. Can I get a witness?!

Yesterday, two young Latina T.A.s led one of my art theory classes in lieu of the absent professor.  I admire the professor and like her teaching style, though her focus is the European canon, perhaps because she is European.

Counter to grad art school culture, these two young Latina T.A.s centered the class discussion on Tantric (Indian) paintings and philosophies of the 1600’s, with a comparison to Brazilian protest art of the 1970’s. It was refreshing. I’m grateful to these young Latina cohorts of mine.

In various classes, this one and others, I have often spoken out about the wrongness in crediting contemporary European and American artists and theorists as being the pioneers of certain theories and art practices, such as minimalism — when those ideas and images had already been put into practice, centuries ago, in places like Africa, China, Tibet, India and elsewhere.

For example, the three paintings below are not by the heralded contemporary (deceased) European and American artists, Mark Rothko (Russia-USA 1903-1970), Kazimir Malevich (Russia 1879-1935) or Barnett Newman (USA 1905-1970). They are all Tantric paintings, the images and represented philosophical principals created in India, more than 400 years ago.