Andy Burns: Analysis of Untitled Rothko Piece

This untitled piece is one of my personal favorites from Mark Rothko.  The use of lively, bright, and multi-shaded red as the background color gives the piece a tense, alarming feel.  Such a background also provides a very strong contrast with the two shapes.  The contrast enables the two shapes to be perceived as well defined blocks despite their blurred, ill-defined edges.  Color contrasts between the background and the shapes sets the stage for the viewers perception of the shapes interactions.  The emotions procured from the red background make it seem as though the black shape is putting pressure on the grey.  The blurred edges add to this perception of motion.  It is as though the dreary, black object is pushing forth into the territory of the grey.  The fragments of white visible in the grey shape give a sense of hope and optimism within this shape.  The vertical motion of the brushstrokes makes it seem as though this grey shape is trying to expand against the hopeless black shape.  Ultimately, despite ones interpretation, their can be no avoiding this sense of motion between the two shapes.  The wispy edges and strong background contrasts make any static interpretations almost impossible.  This is what defines Rothko’s work to me; an unavoidable sense of motion and interaction within a painting that depicts nothing but blocks of color.

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