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Mark Rothko: The Power of Color

By Bea Aaronson

How do I speak of Mark Rothko when all he craved was silence—The accuracy of silence where one’s soul can breathe, feel, and understand? How do I write about Mark Rothko when words seem so empty of meaning? How do I tackle depth and surface in their physical and spiritual lives, ecstasy and doom, joy and sorrow, strength, and frailty? Certainly not with academic uninspired ostentatious jargon. Because “art is a miracle,” as Rothko said. Yes, he is an icon of American Abstract Art. Yes, he was part of this multi-dimensional American artistic blossoming known as Abstract Expressionism, alongside Pollock, Milton Avery, Clifford Still, Barnett Newman, de Koenig, and so many others. But Rothko was not an abstractionist! He furrowed the psychic reality of human emotions and created a unique visual field of color vibrations that require a concentrated gaze and stance. Only then can the miracle happen.

Mark Rothko: The Power of Color
Mon, Jan 4, 4pm
The Jewish Cultural Center of San Miguel, the JC3
Calle de Las Moras 47, corner Cinco de Mayo
For reservations call 415 185 9191
or email
130 pesos members/150 pesos non-members

In this presentation, I shall offer a succinct yet substantial account of Rothko’s life: his birth in 1903 in Russia; his Hasidic, Talmudic upbringing; his early work; his two wives, Edith, and “Mell” Beistle; his children; the political activism of his anarchist left wing sensitivity, with the unavoidable connection to Emma Goldman.

I shall present many juxtapositions, some obvious, some more startling, revealing his sources of inspiration and artistic affinities.

I shall tame his signature style of hypnotic, floating, vibrating rectangles of color through an understanding of the latest data concerning the psychological, physiological, vibrational power of color. And of course, his fuzzy edges, which visualize the primordial dimension of doubt, which visually discard the arrogance of clear-cut answers. Even a high-quality printed reproduction cannot induce this sensation. You have to see them in the flesh, so to say.

I shall of course discuss the 1958 Seagram Four Seasons saga, which can be best summed up in Rothko’s own words: “I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room,” a saga that resulted in the annulment of the contract.

I shall enter the poignant intimacy of his ultimate towering artistic statement, the 1964 ominous cycle of Black Paintings inside the Houston Chapel, which he never saw completed. Rothko committed suicide on February 25, 1970.

You may ask me, “But what about Rothko’s link to Nietzsche?” I shall attempt to connect these two thinkers. Rothko was foremost a thinker who not only used words, but also visual art, to express his thoughts.

I invite you join me to meet, feel, and understand Mark Rothko.

In August 2014 I had the honor of recreating two Rothkos from the Seagram series for the Santa Ana production of RED. It felt as if I were connecting beyond time and space with Mark himself, as if I knew him personally, as if his colors and vibrations were entering me…a true miracle indeed!


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