Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mark Rothko, John Logan's "Reds, and Me

We were at the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre this afternoon, for the performance of John Logan's Tony-winning (2010) play "Red," about Mark Rothko. It's a very strong piece of work (two characters, Rothko and an aspiring painter who comes to work for Rothko as a studio assistant), set around the time Rothko received a commission to paint a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in the then-under-construction Seagram Building in NYC. (Frankly, a less likely place ...for a set of paintings by Rothko is hard for me to imagine.) Well-acted, with a well-designed set, and well worth seeing. (I suspect it'll be around for a while--two characters and an easy set to's not an expensive play to produce...and short--one act, about 90 minutes.)

One thing it did, though, was remind me of two of the encounters I have had with Rothko's work. The first was in the early 1970s (I think) at MOMA. First time I ever saw one of his paintings, and all I wanted to do was crawl inside it and never come out. I don't remember much about it, except that is was multiple shades of (of course) red. (I've pasted a photo of a Rothko painting in red for you all).


The second was at the Rothko retrospective (apparently at the Whitney in 1998). It was at this show that I learned that Rothko thought his paintings should be viewed from about 18", so that the work completely filled your visual space and seemed to surround you. I walked into one of the galleries, turned to the wall, and saw a work in filled me with so much joy that I grinned and started laughing...

For me, Rothko is the greatest American painter of the 20th century (with Pollock, Motherwell, and Frankenthaler right there)

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