January 18, 2018

Two Guys and Rothko

Orange, Red, Yellow by Mark Rothko, 1961, sold in 2013 for $87 million, fair use via Wikipedia.org

Orange, Red, Yellow by Mark Rothko, 1961, sold in 2013 for $87 million, fair use via Wikipedia.org

Not long ago I was talking to Michael Anderson who now lives in San Francisco, whom TroysArt also refers to as Manderson. Manderson and I used to paint together and actually had a few public exhibitions of our work such as Two Guys Painting at the Lowell Collins Gallery. Our shtick was to both undertake the same still life, landscape, or sitter with the outcomes, as interpreted through two different artistic minds, displayed side by side. It was, to say the least, a fascinating experiment.  At any rate he was telling me about his idea to do a painting as an ode to Mark Rothko. I liked his thought process and decided that it was an awesome opportunity to resurrect both Two Guys AND Rothko!

And why not? The interest is greater than ever in Rothko’s work as evident by the huge market for his paintings. In 2012 a 1961 piece entitled Orange, Red, Yellow (from the estate of clothing manufacturer and art collector David Pincus, poor little Pincus) was sold by Christies in New York for $87 million, which set a new record for a postwar painting at auction. And just this last November Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange (from the estate of Listerine heiress Bunny Mellon) sold for $37 million.

Mark Rothko, 1949, by Consuelo Kanaga via Wikimedia Commons

Mark Rothko, 1949, by Consuelo Kanaga via Wikimedia Commons

So who was Rothko in 300 words or less? Mark Rothko (1903 –1970) was an American painter categorized as an Abstract Expressionist. Along with artists like Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly he is regarded as one of the most famous contemporary artists.

The method for which Rothko is now known was achieved by applying thin layers of paint with fast brushstrokes onto raw canvas then overlapping with additional layers thus creating a build-up of color and shape. He also created original techniques that he even hid from his assistants; he sought to discover ways to layer without muddying his pigments.

He began to come into his own in the early 1950s, preferring oil on very large vertical canvases—the large size was meant to overwhelm the observer. But as his success grew he became increasingly eccentric and even protective of his work.

Rothko Chapel by Ed Uthman, Houston, Texas, USA

Rothko Chapel by Ed Uthman, Houston, Texas, USA (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

But the artist developed a fear that he was misunderstood and that his works sold because they were fashionable—he wanted to be truly understood by the public and by academics.

He increasingly emphasized the spiritual aspects of his paintings in his later years. The Rothko Chapel in Houston was a commission by Dominique de Menil; and Rothko intended it to be his most important statement. Located adjacent to the Menil Collection Museum in Houston, the chapel walls are covered with massive canvases that appear dark—in fact if one did not know they were paintings, it might just seem like purple/black walls. But that is the drama Rothko intended, effectively surrounding the viewer with imposing visions of darkness.  It is truly one of the most unusual and serene spaces one might ever visit.

Rose Violet, 2015, by Troy Broussard

Rose Violet, 2015, by Troy Broussard

But he never saw the chapel vision completed. A year before it opened his assistant found him dead on the kitchen floor; he committed suicide with a razor. And despite popular rumors, he did not kill himself on one of the chapel canvases.

Now as for the project… the guidelines were simple if existent at all. This project was not meant to reproduce a Rothko, to copy one, or even to attempt his technique. Manderson selected a canvas size which served as the only standard, 24 x 30”.

That said I worked up a couple studies then went for it—I just had fun with it.  My work progressed quickly and I found it quite relaxing and free.

Manderson, on the other hand took a more meandering and scholarly route from start to finish.  And he took a lot more time too; I had honestly expected him to finish a month ago.

Ode to Rothko by Michael Anderson

Ode to Rothko by Michael Anderson

Nevertheless Manderson finally found the inspiration he needed.  “I was hating it until tonight,” he admitted recently–but after working with him for years I was not surprised in the least.  “Then I scrolled through a bunch of Rothkos and the light bulb went off,” he continued.  “It needed color!”  He proceeded to layer cobalt and crimson over Prussian blue.

So of course, included with this post are both our paintings.Would anyone care to offer $37 million for either?  How about for both?  Anyone?

Mark Rothko website

The Rothko Chapel

The River Oaks Examiner – Two Guys Painting at Lowell Collins Gallery

One thought on “Two Guys and Rothko

  • MAnderson

    What a fantastic article! I will jut put this out there – I’ll take less than $37M for mine 🙂 Stay tuned for the next in the Two Guys Painting series.

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