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Seeing Red

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seagram-1-87-large

Rothko – One of the Seagram Murals

Last night at the Dorset Theater Festival, I saw Red, the John Logan play about Mark Rothko with Tim Daly as Rothko and Charles Socarides as Rothko’s assistant.  This is the second time I have seen this play, the first time being some months ago at the Capital Rep in Albany with Kevin Maguire playing Rothko and David Kenner playing his assistant. Kevin is a good friend and I was mostly interested in how he might embody Rothko. He took the route of assuming his physicality and Russian accent, Tim Daly, who is tall and thin with plenty of hair (not exactly Rothko’s body double), for me, created the artist’s mind. The experience of the play was completely different. This time with Daly I followed his every painting reference. This is so how painter’s talk — this painting leads to that, this painting is the reason that that painting is important, or this painting completely overturns the relevance and meaning of that painting. It made me wonder what it was like to see this play if you didn’t know all the references. So, with what I can recall of last night’s dialog, I have put together a little cheat sheet for anyone who wants to know what the lines refer to.

The Seagram Building

The Seagram Building

In 1958, Rothko was commissioned to do a series of paintings for The Four Season’s Restaurant,  in the new Seagram building designed German architect Meis van der Rohe (or as my ex-German boyfriend liked to call him — Meis van der Boring)  with the interior space, including The Four Season’s Restaurant, designed by Philip  Johnson of The Glass House fame.

Meis van der Rohe's Berlin Museum. It has speed bumps around the courtyard to prevent skateboarding.

Meis van der Rohe’s Berlin Museum. It has speed bumps around the courtyard to prevent skateboarding.

 

Philip Johnson's "Glass House", whose whole purpose is to be without walls, which only works because it is on grounds surrounded by walls.

Philip Johnson’s “Glass House”, whose whole purpose is to be without walls, which only works because it is on grounds surrounded by walls.

 

The Four Season's Grill Room. I am not sure if this was the room that was supposed to house the Rothko's. All the other pictures I found of the restaurant only showed the windows, no walls.

The Four Season’s Grill Room. I am not sure if this was the room that was supposed to house the Rothko’s. All the other pictures I found of the restaurant only showed the windows, no walls.

Rothko asks Ken if Sidney sent him. That was Rothko’s dealer Sidney Janis:

Sidney Janis

Sidney Janis

 

He asks Ken who his favorite artist is and Ken answers Jackson Pollock.

Jackson Pollock painting

Jackson Pollock painting

 

Later Rothko talks about Pollock’s fatal car accident being a suicide:

 

Pollock Accident

Jackson Pollock’s turned over vehicle.

 

Rothko asks again, who is Ken’s favorite artist and he replies Picasso (who was still alive when this play takes place):

Picasso, "Les Demoiselle d'Avignion"

Picasso, “Les Demoiselle d’Avignion”

 

Rothko talks about Matisse’s “Red Studio” being the inspiration for the Seagram murals:

Matisse, "Red Studio"

Matisse, “Red Studio”

And the stairway and space in a library designed by Michelangelo creating a space he envisions for his paintings:

Michelangelo

Michelangelo

 

Then he makes reference to a painting in a dark corner of a church by Caravaggio and how without any light on it, Caravaggio made the light emanate from within the painting. I don’t know the specific Caravaggio, but he managed to have that emanating light in most of his work:

Caravaggio

Caravaggio

 

He also talks about the light emanating from the Hebrew letters in this painting at the National Gallery in London by Rembrandt:

Rembrandt, "Belshazzar's Feast"

Rembrandt, “Belshazzar’s Feast”

 

And the importance of Goya:

Goya

Goya

 

and Manet:

edouard-manet-the-fifer-1866

 

Rothko talks about his peers, de Kooning, Barnett Newman and Motherwell:

DeKooning

De Kooning

 

Barnett Newman, "Whose Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue"

Barnett Newman, “Whose Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue”

 

Motherwell

Motherwell

 

And finally he rails against the “young bucks”, Jasper Johns, Warhol, Frank Stella, Rauchenberg and that “cartoon painter” Roy Lichtenstein:

Jasper Johns, "Three Flags"

Jasper Johns, “Three Flags”

 

Andy Warhol, "Campbell Soup Cans"

Andy Warhol, “Campbell Soup Cans”

 

Frank Stella

Frank Stella

 

Rauchenberg

Rauchenberg

 

Roy Lichtenstein, "Whaam"

Roy Lichtenstein, “Whaam”

Ken tries to counter Rothko’s despair about, “One day the black will swallow the red.” by bringing up the late Matisse cutouts and Van Gogh’s colorful last painting:

Matisse. "Danseuse Creole"

Matisse. “Danseuse Creole”

 

Van Gogh's last painting

Van Gogh’s last painting

 

 

In the end,  it seems that the black swallows the red:

Rothko, Seagram Sketch

Rothko, Seagram Sketch

 

If you go:

RED

John Logan

June 18th-July 6th
Dorset Theater Festival

Box Office/ Administrative Office:
(802) 867-2223

Mailing Adress:
P.O. Box 510
Dorset, Vermont 05251

Email:
dtf@dorsettheatrefestival.org

http://www.dorsettheatrefestival.org/visit

 

 

 

 

 

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