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Showing posts with label Mark Rothko. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mark Rothko. Show all posts


Genesis (1997)

Illustrated by Ed Young

A Laura Geringer Book

"To me, Genesis represents the very beginning of all possibility - the energy that is the seed of life," writes Ed Young in the introduction of this splendid little book.

Although I almost wonder if the smallness of the volume works against it. We're dealing with abstractions here. Each opposing page has a line from the King James version of the book of Genesis, set alongside Young's best attempt to capture that thought artistically. I would love to know more about his thought process in this. For example, the first illustration is:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was wihtout form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

Well, what would you paint? Young presents a textured, dark red background, within which sit two vaguely human-shaped forms, one large, one small. Is this God? Is this the void? The "firmament in the midst of the waters" takes the form of a bright stretch of light acorss a dark, thundercloud of blue and gray.

The only thing which is distinct are the two "great lights" set within the firmament of heaven. Even when we get into the territory of the animals - birds of the air, fish of the sea - they are only vague and indistinct. A feather, a fin, a hand, lost in a swirl of color.

I wish the book had been larger. Much larger. It reminds me a bit of looking at the paintings of Mark Rothko in books and not understanding what the big deal was. It was only when I saw them in person and was overwhelmed by their sheer size that at last was in awe. These illustrations too, I feel, could benefit from such an enlargement. What would the impact be if the black and red shapes meant to signify God and Void were large and encompassing instead of small and compact within this book?

Nonetheless, this is a beautiful book. But the beauty isn't limited to the paintings.

"The endpapers," Young writes, "are composed of the names of hundreds of endangered and extinct animals, with those that are extinct highlighted; for I also see in Genesis a gentle reminder that the earth is ours to protect."

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