In the following excerpt from his new book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures, Eric Kandel examines the power of Rothko’s painting and his transformation from a figurative to an abstract painter. In describing Rothko’s abstract paintings for the Rothko Chapel, Kandel writes:
The sensation is both ambiguous and remarkable, and it affords us an opportunity to create new meaning. Moreover, the harmony among the beautifully displayed paintings in the chapel—a harmony that characterizes Rothko’s late work—is striking. None of Rothko’s figurative paintings are remotely capable of evoking as emotionally rich and varied, as spiritual, a response as these reductionist dark canvases.