This article explores the connection between works made by artists during the Abstract era and their connections to the government and certain political ideals. The article itself states that “MoMA was part and parcel of the CIA’s efforts to combat Communism with American culture” (Page 8, 2nd paragraph) with other references to the government boosting ideals of the American Dream by using art. Much of what was happening could have had a negative effect on the artists that worked during that time. These artists might not have escaped unscathed; for example, Rothko, Gorky, and Kline all committed suicide (Page 9, last paragraph), but the article doesn't focus on how the way their art was used could have negatively impacted the psyche of the artists.
Focusing on Mark Rothko, the Russian born, Jewish artist had no advanced training in art managed to be at the forefront of the Abstract movement in America. The article states that his paintings “howled their opposition to bourgeois materialism” (Last page, Last Paragraph) which can be seen in essence as American culture. Rothko was against much of what the government supported, but his paintings were a huge success. Despite this success however, the article talks about how Rothko committed suicide and how his friends say it was because he was being well paid and commissioned for works that disagreed with the ideals of the people he was paid by. This can take a real toll on someone who makes art, especially someone like Rothko in an era like the Abstract age.
If someone’s work is so anti-bourgeois and opposing to American government views, but they are paid a lot of money for that work, it’s ironic and sad. Rothko’s work was used against him, it was used to fuel the things that he hated, such as the American market, which could have hurt him emotionally. It’s something that people need to confront when considering how artists are represented by galleries or corporations, and if an artist as successful as Rothko was at the time was used by a higher power to completely negate the said artists views, it creates a negative feeling in the artist that could lead to a suicide. Moreover, Rothko actually changed his given Jewish name because he was afraid of anti-Semitism, another example of how the culture surrounding an artist can hurt them. Along with the fact that he is now considered to have had Manic-Depressive Syndrome, it really could impact him because of the environment he made art in and the emotions he felt.
Altogether, large entities like the government and corporations use artists for their own agenda, which can lead to a tragic ending to a creator. Mark Rothko’s story is a well-known example, but there could be countless unknown other artists who shared his fate. The American government was trying to promote their ideal and oppress ideas that they disagreed with. This American ideal was freedom, but the government’s use of creators did the opposite. It restricted their freedom, only allowing their views to be shown, severely opposed to what many artists believed. This can alter how the artists’ work is used and can make it difficult for the artist to get their voice into the world, which in all is the point of art.
The article in question: http://www.slowart.com/articles/cia.htm
Some history on Rothko: