If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:5:12

Video transcript

we're in the Museum of Modern Art and we're on the fourth floor and the rooms devoted to Abstract Expressionism and we're standing in front of Mark Rothko's number three slash number thirteen which needs to 1949 the subjects richness love to not name their paintings if it's sort of a modernist problem it is it is a composition number flaw they didn't want to close down mean I understand that ambiguity is incredibly important for artists in the 20th century it is but I think that the weird number three number thirteen part I I wonder if that has to do with the curators trying to figure out really what this thing was called and not being sure about it yeah I have no idea actually yeah it's interesting because Rothko is an artist that even even at a time when I was a little bit put off by abstract painting I always loved the Rothko's there they had a kind of brooding heaviness about finger just melancholy yeah yeah and I don't think I even knew why it made me feel that way I think Rothko would have been really really happy to hear you say that I think Rothko really wanted people in fact I seem to remember quote where he said if people understood his paintings they would be in tears before them yeah I think it did that to me it's something wonderfully sort of solemn and almost kind of feeling you sometimes get when you look at stained glass windows in a Gothic cathedral mm-hmm and there's something incredibly sort of awesome them in a more fashion sense and so what is it that evokes those feeling really you know it's it's a lot of things it's these it's the horizontality it's the way that the forms are sort of behind and in front and have no edges and kind of hovered her said no edges and hover it sounds like you were talking about emoji oh yeah but also this there's that kind of way that you can see underneath the paint and you know sometimes it comes it comes in front it was a kind of incompleteness and kind of fluid process yeah and feel almost Rothko's efforts to find his way through this and you know yeah you sound like we're talking about it's a Zen oh that's interesting but I think there's there are elements of says and laundry on here which is not what you would think of it first no I think that these are paintings that as you were saying that you were moving your hands back and forth and I think that that's exactly right it took me a while to figure this out about Roth ago but I think that these are paintings that are about space rather than color and it colors it important obviously and color is gorgeous these are forms these almost clouds of forms that exist in some sort of space of their own construction that make sense it's interesting when you said the horizontality because they're they are horizontal paintings even though that's vertical the end of the canvas is vertical yeah but they create an occupy space in a very important way and the heaviness of that black form that sort of cloud of black rectangle soft edges and and because it's high and center of gravity is ever more powerful you see what I mean well like I feel like it almost pulls me into it it does right that what you mean that well I think so but it also presses down vertically on the cream white below the line of dark blackness below that in the green below that absolutely is it kind of oppressive this is kind of a here but actually according to some conservators Rothko scholars have lost a lot of their edge and I wonder what they would have looked like even been more luminous very vivid so this notion that one's not after a sort of finished product but that these are process oriented paintings you know the famous term that Rosenberg used was actually painting we don't usually think about that term in relationship to Rothko because there's a constant relative balance that so I mean you've action you think about Pollock you know leaning over the but I think that there is a kind of provisional list in a kind of process of finding I think you're absolutely right which is very much tied to the artist and his experience in the making of this canvas and I think that the authentic Ness of the canvas can really be embedded in that notion of finding of the article or finding and feeling yeah I think that that's exactly right you know it's interesting because it is a kind of turn towards the psyche yes artists exactly right this is an expression of the interior what's sort of funny is that in the next generation some artists will begin to disavow rejection of that right because this is seen as as kind of psychoanalytic heroism growing out of the European surrealism etc I'm going out of young at a Freud but in a kind of purely American idiom at a kind of American scale the sort of grandeur in space right so he's Warhol is a kind of reaction yeah absolutely soup can absolutely or or Rauschenberg or even even jasper guitars that sort of statement that art is about is not about some kind of inner psychic state right but easier this is in some ways a very beautiful and expressive kind of Romanticism and that way isn't it I think you