Ritual illustrates the strong visual connections between European Surrealism and the beginnings of Abstract Expressionism in the United States. Through the use of a Surrealist technique called psychic automatism–a kind of doodling where the artist lets impulse lead the way–Rothko created a field of freely floating geometric shapes and disconnected identifiable forms. Like Joan Miró, whom the artist acknowledged as a powerful influence in his works, Rothko imitates the presence of the human figure through an imaginative composition of abstract signs: an ear replaces the head, and a series of lines arranged in a bulbous form marks the torso from which sinuous shapes jut like limbs. According to Rothko, these shapes do not have direct association with any particular visual experience and belong to a ritualistic realm associated with a transcendent world.
Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center