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  • Colors

    Written by on at 9:21 AM

    25 February, marks the death of artist Mark Rothko in 1970.

    Rothko was born in Imperial Russia to a Jewish family. Rothko’s father, fearing the brutality and rampant anti-Semitism of pre-revolutionary Russia, fled to the USA, settling the family in Portland, Oregon. Although the family was of modest means, Rothko recalled that theirs was a “reading family” and Rothko himself was able to speak several languages. In addition, he became exposed to the radical labor organizers of the West Coast, attending meetings of the Industrial Workers of the World and hearing a lecture by anarchist Emma Goldman.

    Rothko would receive a scholarship to Yale, but soon became repulsed at what he viewed as the racist, arrogant elitists of the Yale community, prompting Rothko and some friends began to a satirical sheet called, ‘The Saturday Evening Pest’ which attempted to deflate the bloated egos of those they found themselves surrounded by. Rothko would drop out after a year and never earn a university degree.  

    Rothko first became interested in the field of art in 1923, when he dropped in on some friends at the Art Students League and observed them sketching a model. Rothko was soon learning at the elbow of such avant-garde luminaries as Arshile Gorky and Max Weber, the latter of whom he developed a strong rapport.

    By 1928, Rothko was exhibiting his works with other young artists and was well received, but not financially secure. He taught art classes to remain solvent and would do so up until 1932. Rothko would also find work in the New Deal created, Works Progress Administration.

    In 1942 Rothko exhibited paintings at Macy’s Department Store, a showing that received negative commentary from the New York Times whose critic expressed “befuddlement” at the works. Rothko, along with abstract expressionist painter Adolph Gottlieb, replied in part:  "We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth."

    In the early 1950’s Rothko had one man shows in galleries in New York, Amsterdam, and Sao Paulo. A 1954 solo show at the Art Institute in Chicago would prove particularly beneficial to his career. In 1961 he would be a guest at the inaugural ball of John F. Kennedy. Rothko described color as “merely an instrument” that could convey “tragedy, ecstasy, and doom”.

    Examples of the most famous style of his work appear below…


  • This Week's 'Profile in Black History' - Paul Robeson

    Written by on at 9:21 AM

    Paul Robeson was a remarkable America figure who made great strides in numerous fields. A testament to these achievements are the numerous Awards and Honors that were bestowed upon him, such as a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and entry into the American Theater Hall of Fame. The Spingarn medal from the NAACP. In 1995, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1976, the apartment building on Edgecombe Avenue in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan where Robeson lived during the early 1940s was officially renamed the Paul Robeson Residence, and declared a National Historic Landmark. In 2004, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 37-cent stamp honoring Robeson. His efforts to end Apartheid in South Africa were posthumously rewarded by the United Nations General Assembly.

    Robeson was born on 9 April in 1898 in New Jersey.  In late 1915, Robeson became the third African-American student ever enrolled at Rutgers, and the only one at the time. He was accepted into Phi Beta Kappa and his classmates elected him class valedictorian. He would go on to Columbia Law School. He also had a successful entry into football, playing professionally in the NFL ‘Milwaukee Badgers’ until 1922.

    Robeson would become known to most Americans however though his talents in signing (in numerous languages) and on the stage of the theater. The run of Othello starring Robeson was the longest-running production of a Shakespeare play ever staged on Broadway. He received a Donaldson Award for his performance.

    Robeson was one of the most outspoken performers and personalities of his era, black or white. He famously commented, "The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative."

    A fervent believer in international solidarity, on June 20, 1949, Robeson spoke at the Paris Peace Congress saying that, "We in America do not forget that it was on the backs of the white workers from Europe and on the backs of millions of Blacks that the wealth of America was built. And we are resolved to share it equally. We reject any hysterical raving that urges us to make war on anyone.”

    On January 23, 1976, following complications of a stroke, Robeson died in Philadelphia at the age of 77.

    Technically, he was the first one to sing at the Sydney Opera House, in Australia, he did so for the workers while it was still under construction. Here is a clip of that visit….

  • Get a Move on!

    Written by on at 9:21 AM

    Our campus is full of possibilities for University Staff, not only to strengthen the mind at the largest library in the State of Wisconsin, but to strengthen the body using both the campus facilities and our natural surroundings. Molly McGinty, the Office Coordinator at Eagle Heights (pictured 2nd from the left) has taken the challenge seriously. She has organized a workplace workout at the Eagle Heights Community Center. They meet each Monday morning from 6:45am – 7:30am. This diverse group of employees that includes trades and office staff, police officers, supervisors and child care workers, work to motivate one another while being led by trainers from the UW Division of Rec Sports . Would you like to join them? You don’t have to be a Housing employee to take part, you just have to work at the UW, so what are you waiting for? Feel free to contact Molly at or 262-5673 if you want to join the Eagle Heights gang or even ask her how you could go about starting your own group at your workplace.