Red Rocks

Red Rocks

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The persistence of Art

I've just finished a couple of books on prehistoric cave art in Europe, including one called The Cave of Lascaux, The Final Photographs. This very famous cave was closed to the public in 1963 (only discovered in 1940) because of concerns over known and probable future damage due to light, pollution, temperature changes, etc.

It has extraordinary paintings and occasional etchings, some of which are layered on top of previous art. Obviously, there is no way to be sure of the meaning or content or purpose for these drawings which human beings rendered almost 20,000 years ago.

My favorite image appears near this image:

Known popularly as The Great Black Cow, it was painted over an earlier mural of multiple horses. What I love, however, is not the cow but the symbol (or blazon) which appears beneath the hind legs. You can see the "patchwork" colored rectangular box just in front of and below the left hind leg.

What you see when you look at the blazon directly is this image:

These are polychromic signs that are nearly as abstract as any modern painting you've ever seen.

I find this painting incredibly beautiful and believe it must have meant something to it's human creator.

Below is a (bad) photograph I took last summer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It is by an American Abstract Expressionist named Mark Rothko. This painting was made around 1965 as part of a series he did for a chapel in Ft. Worth, Texas. It is distorted by the angle at which I took it to avoid glare, but in person the purplish/brown center is so ... rich that it is like looking into a great depth of water, and one can almost go into a trance while looking at all the subtleties.

Obviously, it is very likely that Mr. Rothko and many others knew of these ancient images, and some modern artists had even possibly seen cave paintings in person. I think it is delightful that I still find beautiful what one person created 45 years ago as well as something another person made 20,000 years ago.

In case you didn't think to try, the images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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