Orange, Red, Yellow by Mark Rothko

“I think of my pictures as dramas, the shapes in the pictures are the performers.” – Mark Rothko

Аll successful painters are storytellers and Mark Rothko was certainly a master of his craft. Full of historical, Biblical and mythological references his works were complex narratives dealing with a wide range of philosophical questions. A deeply religious man, Rothko often preoccupied himself with humanity’s quests for spirituality and unity with God – existential themes that every generation explores in its own way, using the unique tools and vocabulary of its time.

Arguably, Mark Rothko’s favorite tool, his favorite “word” or even a storyline was the color red. In the Orange, Red, Yellow you can see clearly how its intensity, its primal qualities its force, its vibration, its purity and its ability to transcend boundaries all appealed to Rothko. As Diane Waldman pointed out in her 1978 monograph on the artist, “Red is the color that fascinates Rothko above all others. No other color appears so insistently in his oeuvre from the time of the multiforms. It dominates Rothko’s work of the fifties and sixties and, in fact, was the color of his last painting. […] Perhaps Rothko was so drawn to red because of its powerful and basic associations: it is identified with the elements and ritual – with fire and with blood – and thus with life, death and the spirit.”

When you find yourself in front of a Mark Rothko painting think of the experience as a meditation. Give it time. Meditate on the colors, on the space they occupy and on the emotions you feel while looking at the canvas. Rothko’s abstractions, his story lines are non-representational, so it’s best not to look for figurative associations. They are also very large, which allows you to clean your peripheral vision and focus solely on the palette at hand. In 1951 white delivering a speech at a “Symposium on how to combine Architecture, Painting and Sculpture” at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Rothko said this about the scale of his paintings: “The reason I paint [large paintings is] precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass… (but), however you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command.”

In May 2012 the painting set an auction record for the artist. Christie’s New York sold the work, in the private collection since 1967, for a total of $86.9 million, more than double its low range estimate of $35 – $45 million.

This article ©galleryIntell