4th. article in our 7-week series on the film Cosmopolis
Eric Packer, the central character in Don Delillo’s novella Cosmopolis, asks Didi (portrayed by actress Juliette Binoche) if he can purchase Rothko’s Chapel and all of the paintings inside. Why are the works of Mark Rothko central to this literary work and what do his paintings symbolize?
First, we should look at Mark Rothko, the man. Mark Rothko(Marcus Rothkowitz) was born on September,25 1903 in Dvinsk, Russia which is now Daugavpils, Latvia. When he was ten years old, he and his family immigrated to Oregon.
In 1923, he moved to New York and began taking art classes at the Arts Students League. His most famous works consisted of two, three, or four rectangles aligned vertically against a colored ground which became his signature style. He wanted his paintings to have metaphysical and spiritual symbolic meanings.1
In the late 1950′s, Rothko was commissioned to create paintings for the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building designed by Mies Van der Rohe. However, Rothko did not deliver the paintings because he believed that they would only provide decoration.
It was these paintings that the de Menils saw when visiting his studio. The chapel was founded by philanthropists John and Dominque de Menil. In 1971, the chapel was dedicated as an intimate sanctuary to people of all beliefs.
According to the mission statement of the chapel : The mission of the Rothko Chapel is “to inspire people to action through art and contemplation, to nurture reverence for the highest aspirations of humanity, and to provide a forum for global concerns.“2
How does this tie in with Eric Packer? Given his character, he was always searching for something outside of himself to fulfill him. He had everything and nothing. Rothko wanted his paintings to have a meditative, spiritual feel. DeLillo uses Rothko’s Chapel and society in his novella to demonstrate one central thing that everyone forgets nowadays. Sharing is Caring. Just as Eric wanted to hoard Rothko’s paintings for himself neither can society hoard money without someone feeling the strain.
To view Rothko’s paintings please visit :www.nga.gov/feature/rothko
To view Rothko’s chapel please visit: www.rothkochapel.org/
Also see 3rd. article in the series; Cosmopolis: Skewed Products
Please join us for an open discussion from Wednesday 8/1/2012-Friday 8/3/2012