|Courtesy of www.Mark-Rothko.org|
Several of Rothko's mythical paintings were first presented at a 1942 group show at Macy's, the largest department store in New York City. Among those works is Antigone, which had been shown earlier at the Riverside Museum in the first annual exhibition of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors. Even before the show at Macy's opened in June, the New York Times published a negative review by Edward Alden Jewell, who waxed ironic on how the works by Rothko completely befuddled him. In a June 6 follow-up, Jewell added that one of the artists had offered to help him with his "cluelessness." This provoked Rothko to fire off a polemic letter to the Times, in which they championed Modernist art. Jewell published their rejoinder ("The Realm of Art: A New Platform and 'Globalism' Pops Into View") on June 13, interspersing it with his own ironic and unrepentant gloss.
The artists' text was "as obscure as the paintings themselves," Jewell wrote. Rothko was smug in dealing with what they took as Jewell's ignorance: "To the artist, the workings of the critical mind is one of life's mysteries. That is why, we suppose, the artist's complaint that he is misunderstood, especially by the critic, has become a noisy commonplace.