Tomorrow, Willamette Transit Bridge architect Donald MacDonald will address
Portland's design community at a sold out (i.e. capacity) crowd at AiA's Portland
Office. A few weeks ago PORT
broke the story on the new"A" bridge
and it was further expanded
on by Bike
... given the massive traffic we got, I suspect there will be
more media types at the meeting tomorrow.
Very preliminary view of option "A" transit bridge design
Mark Rothko, 1961 © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel &Christopher Rothko / VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2008
But before that I'd like to propose something that PORT staffers have been
talking about for years, the City of Portland needs to acknowledge its most
famous and noteworthy resident, Mark Rothko, in a major way. Ironically, Rothko's
place in history is assured as one of the twentieth century's greatest artists
but he is generally unknown
or unacknowledged by the city he grew up in
. (A city which now boasts a
strong international level art and design scene). It is an embarrassing omission,
which demands attention.
I believe the new Multi-Use
Willamette River Transit Bridge
is an ideal candidate to be named after
Rothko. This is especially fitting since the artist spent considerable time
crossing back and forth across the Willamette and frequently painted the very
location of the new bridge.
For more information, Rothko's
time in Portland was assiduously studied by our own Arcy Douglass here
I believe his sense of tragedy and atmospherics can in part be directly attributed
to growing up under Portland's dramatic skies and life shaping events like his
father's death. What's more he had his first major solo show at the Portland
Lastly, I don't think the bridge needs to look like a Rothko painting or anything
hokey like that, but it is an important way for the city to rediscover its history
through planning for the future (via the bridge). It could also be a stepping
stone towards some sort of Rothko museum in Portland. Currently the Portland
Art Museum has only one small but mature watercolor by the artist but maybe
a creative loan program with the National Gallery of Art, which has some 500+
Rothkos could make something happen? (Thanks to Tyler Green for the idea) This
loan idea is key, since Rothko's mature paintings are easily some of the most
expensive works by any painter... thus, even a multi-billionaire could hope to
acquire only a couple of his works.
Let's take first steps first though, and
acknowledge the man from Portland, with a bridge.
I'm not sure if I understand the necessity of naming a bridge after Rothko, but I can definitely understand the need for a Rothko museum. We certainly have a landscape that induces staring, contemplation, and appreciation, similar to a painting by Rothko. There must be someone in Portland with an exorbitant amount of money and an appreciation for Rothko that could support the creation of a museum.
Because civic acknowledgment is the first step to other things, also:
#1 there aren't that many Rothko works available on the market at any price so assembling a museum is very difficult... even with unlimited funds.
#2 patrons of that means and mind are not exactly plentiful
#3 the city needs to acknowledge Rothko in a way that will remind the civic body he in fact grew up here... that usually means renaming a street or park... or naming a bridge. A bridge is better than a park or street because it is an iconic object that is less easy to ignore. Also, this bridge will be right downtown... think of it as a bridge to Portland's future and past.
#4 Rothko crossed the Willamette countless times, going from family owned businesses to where he lived. If this bridge had existed in his time it is likely the one he would have chosen often (considering his frequent destinations). He painted the location of this new bridge numerous times (usually from Pill Hill).