The Case For Mark Rothko | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

The Case For Mark Rothko | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios


[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: You see a
painting of a hazy rectangle of color stacked on top
of another hazy rectangle of color. And you think to yourself,
oh right, a Rothko. I know that guy. But do you know that guy? Why those hazy rectangles? And why should I care? This is the case
for Mark Rothko. Marcus Rothkowitz was born
in 1903 to a Jewish family into Dvinsk, Russia. They immigrated to
Portland, Oregon in 1913, but his father died
just months after. Marcus was a good student
and won a scholarship to Yale, where he did
well and discovered his leftist political leanings. But he dropped out in his second
year and moved to New York. It was there he set his
mind to becoming an artist and studied at the Art
Students League under Max Weber and learned about
Cubism and Matisse and the German expressionists. In the 1930s, he made
paintings influenced by Milton Avery and Matisse. He changed his name to Rothko
in 1940, and by the mid ’40s, was trying out a
little surrealism with works like
this and this that drew from classical methods,
tapping them as symbols to discuss human tragedy. He also copied Joan Miro a bit
by making pieces like this, and Max Ernst a bit
with pieces like this. He and his buddy
Adolph Gottlieb were reading a bunch of Nietzsche
and Jung at the time and thinking about
the unconscious. With Fascism rampant in
Europe and World War II underway, Rothko and
other artists at the time thought that following
artistic traditions was not only irrelevant,
but irresponsible. He and Gottlieb write a
letter to “The New York Times” in June of 1943 saying,
“There is no such thing as good painting about nothing. We favor the simple expression
of complex thought.” Rothko wanted to answer
the big questions, and he was trying to find
his own way to do that. Large, flat, misty
areas of color started appearing
in his paintings. The works became
more and more reduced and simplified and
geometric until he went completely abstract in 1947. By 1950, he had found
his jam, and then he just kept on doing it. At the time, Rothko’s
paintings were utterly new. Before then, color was usually
tied to narrative content. But Rothko was asking color
alone to draw out emotion. Yes, he did basically the same
thing again and again from 1949 until his death in 1970. But for him, it was an
extremely useful and seemingly inexhaustible
structure within which he said he could deal
“with human emotion; with the human
drama, as much as I could possibly experience it.” He said this style offered
him “the elimination of all obstacles between
the painter and the idea, and between the idea
and the observer.” By getting rid of anything that
triggered history or memory or narrative or
even geometry, he was trying to create an
overwhelming sensory experience for the viewer through
monumentality, simplicity, and stillness. Many have described
standing before a Rothko as a religious experience. He would layer glazes
of color to build hues so deep and rich that
they seemed to glow, something Renaissance artists like
Titian and Giorgione also did to great effect. The symmetry of Rothko’s
work also connects it to religious painting. Collector Dominique
de Menil said Rothko’s paintings evoke
“the tragic mystery of our perishable condition. The silence of God. The unbearable silence of God.” In 1964, de Menil
and her husband John commissioned Rothko to
paint a set of murals for an octagonal chapel
in Houston, Texas, which you can visit today. The murals are somber, using
dark maroon, purplish red, and black. With these he wanted to
create a sense of enclosure and a space for meditation. Rothko was a deeply
troubled and depressive man. He took his work very
seriously and spent a great deal of time
and focus and angst in creating each of them. In 1958 he was asked to create
a set of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in the new
Seagram Building in New York. Calling it “A place where the
richest bastards in New York will come to feed and show
off,” he set to his task using a dark palette and planned
for the enormous paintings to hang oppressively
overhead, wanting to make the viewers feel they
are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows
are bricked up so that all they can do is butt their
heads forever against the wall. But he eventually decided
to hold back the paintings and instead gave them
to the Tate in 1969, where they still hang today. Rothko strictly controlled the
environment of his paintings, demanding they be
shown in low light, in groups, encountered
at close quarters, and never mixed with
work by other artists. He did this not to be difficult,
but because he cared deeply that you have an immersive,
transcendent experience. You’re not looking
at the paintings. You’re with them
and within them. More than anything,
Rothko wanted to make you feel something,
to encounter the undefinable, to stare into the
void, to confront universal human tragedy. This isn’t painting
about nothing. It’s painting about everything. [MUSIC PLAYING]

100 thoughts on “The Case For Mark Rothko | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

  • May 24, 2018 at 1:47 pm
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    Very happy to see this video. I have recently been watching videos of Rothko where people in the comments section are bashing him. Everybody here seems open minded to his art. Although my art is extremely different from his, I do focus a lot on color theory which he does. I admire what he does with color. It is amazing.

    Reply
  • June 2, 2018 at 6:02 am
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    Given the themes of human experience, monumentality, and emotion, the Beethoven in the background is quite apt…

    Reply
  • June 7, 2018 at 9:56 pm
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    slow down babe

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  • June 8, 2018 at 6:16 am
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    I've been to the chapel…. its breath taking

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  • July 9, 2018 at 9:08 pm
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    I just saw the play in London RED boring as f..k

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  • July 10, 2018 at 9:11 am
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    I adore Rothko but find the pace of this video obscene

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  • July 14, 2018 at 12:32 pm
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    Rothko read Nietzsche

    Explains a lot.

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  • July 14, 2018 at 6:16 pm
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    Rothko continues to inspire generations of children with color field painting!

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  • July 16, 2018 at 9:34 pm
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    Nah just rectangles

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  • July 18, 2018 at 4:17 am
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    This is what you paint when you can't paint.

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  • August 6, 2018 at 3:30 pm
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    I love "He and his buddy were reading a bunch of Nietzsche and Jung at the time" because it completely takes the pretension out of the philosophy of art and breaks it down so it's just like "Me and Sarah were listening to a lot of Drake so we made a surrealist vine of all the times he says Uh in his discography"

    Reply
  • August 9, 2018 at 11:13 am
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    here is a short film homage to mark rothko: https://youtu.be/qqeNm078SOM

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  • August 16, 2018 at 11:24 am
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    Excellent case study, AA.

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  • August 19, 2018 at 10:01 pm
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    Mmm still not sold on it.

    Reply
  • August 26, 2018 at 3:53 pm
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    Yeah, cool video, but I still don't buy it. You can theorize all you want, but that won't make any of Rothko's "paintings" any better. His work is absolutely meaningless, the epitome of how art is rapidly losing its value as a whole.

    Reply
  • August 26, 2018 at 3:54 pm
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    Yeah, cool video, but I still don't buy it. You can theorize all you want, but that won't make any of Rothko's "paintings" any better. His work is absolutely meaningless, the epitome of how art is rapidly losing its value as a whole.

    Reply
  • September 1, 2018 at 11:27 am
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    I tried so hard to like Rothko but I fail to feel anything at all looking at his paintings 🙁 great video though 🙂

    Reply
  • September 10, 2018 at 10:45 pm
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    If art needs background explanation, then is not art.

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  • September 22, 2018 at 10:16 pm
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    Money > Modern art history propaganda > Your mind

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  • September 24, 2018 at 8:09 am
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    I didn't find any case for Mark Rothko here. "If you stand near them you will get a religious experience"? Is that the case? That's more like a religious preach.
    The main issue with modern art is that too often art that is confusing or even just plain bad is being presented by so called modern-art-experts as good, creating a "Emperor's New Clothes" effect.
    Usually your "The Case For…" series has been very interesting and eye opening, always giving me a fresh perspective on a certain artist or art style. But this time, I failed to see an actual case.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2018 at 8:46 pm
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    here is a film hommage to rothko: https://youtu.be/qqeNm078SOM

    Reply
  • September 27, 2018 at 10:01 pm
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    love this series! hope cy towmbly is somewhere down the line…

    Reply
  • September 30, 2018 at 5:17 am
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    not a fan

    Reply
  • September 30, 2018 at 2:56 pm
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    I dont care what he was trying to do! I do know so-called artists like Rothko bore me to tears!

    Reply
  • October 3, 2018 at 4:39 pm
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    I like the music.

    Reply
  • October 12, 2018 at 5:43 pm
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    When everything is fitted in to a little space of the canvice it becomes so sqized, and crouded, the shapeless mess might very well be nothing.

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  • October 13, 2018 at 8:11 pm
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    I have absolutely no background in art, and for me is what makes Rothko's work. Because it feels deeply connected, like I have created it, when in fact it has been crafted by a master. Sarah, you make excellent points that force me to think complexly and for that I am so grateful.

    Most importantly, you introduced me to Rothko.

    Reply
  • October 14, 2018 at 2:32 am
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    slow the f down

    Reply
  • October 16, 2018 at 7:43 pm
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    In other words. Cant paint for shit so makes up bullshit by piggybacking pioneers such as Nietzsche and Jung then slobbers paint on a canvas and then says my work is a reflection of the big questions but it isn't. It's just colour. It has no more meaning that a colour spectrum at a paint shop.

    Reply
  • October 17, 2018 at 3:35 pm
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    Why do you feel the need? Everyone loves him

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  • October 20, 2018 at 4:25 pm
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    I like color and clouds.

    Reply
  • November 3, 2018 at 9:49 pm
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    You forgot to mention why he killed himself……The art world?

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  • November 10, 2018 at 3:03 pm
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    I used to think that Rothko was boring.
    Until I stood in front of one of the paintings.

    Reply
  • November 12, 2018 at 11:19 pm
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    i love these series 🙂 you make art reachable to people like me who love it but never learned these types of things! thank you, and please keep making them 🙂

    Reply
  • November 21, 2018 at 11:29 pm
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    Typically the more flowery and philosophical the language used to describe a painting the more the art is actual nonsense. Good grief, it’s a square piece of canvas displaying color in the most primitive way. Rothko needed therapy about his identity crisis and the early loss of his father. His art drags the audience into his personal void and anxieties. It’s about him not art or color. There’s literally and figuratively nothing to see.

    Reply
  • November 22, 2018 at 6:43 am
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    So painting fucking squares within a canvas can get me super famous and rich? Where do I sign up.

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  • December 17, 2018 at 1:23 am
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    These little videos are fun to watch.

    Reply
  • December 27, 2018 at 5:54 am
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    i just don't understand how they move such a huge painting

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  • January 8, 2019 at 7:11 am
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    That's decoration Not Art.
    Shape, meaning, symmetry, expression, symbolism, form etc.
    Art Is subjective But there are criteria.
    Otherwise put a baby's dirty diaper on display.
    THE PROBLEM is the ideological nihilistic existential absurd approach.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2019 at 2:21 am
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    You did a great job on this. Brilliant!

    Reply
  • January 20, 2019 at 7:53 pm
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    THIS IS NOT ART

    Reply
  • January 25, 2019 at 10:27 am
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    Or good marketing

    Reply
  • January 25, 2019 at 12:57 pm
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    Nice origin story, and well-presented. But….still just rectangles.

    Reply
  • January 25, 2019 at 12:58 pm
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    That church, though – they could have just hired a painter to paint the walls.

    Reply
  • January 26, 2019 at 9:50 pm
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    Rothko liked to ejaculate his semen into other mens faeces…..its a shame he didnt die of aids

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  • January 26, 2019 at 9:54 pm
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    selling garbage like this for 86million smh.

    Reply
  • January 29, 2019 at 7:39 am
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    Hey I like the colours but at the end of the day this is another great bluffer of the arts market and good luck to him

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  • January 30, 2019 at 6:03 am
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    I dont know shit about art and i dont like abstract stuff but i saw the purple one once and…can testify to the religious experience thing. I was floored

    Reply
  • January 31, 2019 at 11:31 pm
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    I have a disease!!

    Reply
  • February 16, 2019 at 4:40 pm
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    Can we get a Case for Basquiat or Haring?

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  • February 28, 2019 at 9:57 am
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    I have anxiety and Rothko helps me with that. He is a lovely stroll through the void. A glimpse of the stillness of mortality without the commitment.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2019 at 1:40 pm
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    Rothko is literally the only artist I dont like. Well his pieces anyway.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2019 at 2:37 pm
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    seagram aint in new york buddy.

    Reply
  • March 17, 2019 at 11:30 am
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    TEH TEN ROTHKOMMANDMENTS

    1. Draw vertex (V₁)
    2. Draw second vertex (V₂) at 90° angle to and n distance from V₁
    3. Draw third and fourth vertices (V₃/V₄) parallel to and ≠ n distance from V₁/V₂
    4. Join V₁–V₄ to create area (A₁)
    5. Repeat steps 1–4 parallel to A₁ creating areas A₁–Ax
    6. Read a bunch of Nietzsche and Jung
    7. Think about the unconscious
    8. Smoke, lament the unbearable silence of god
    9. Repeat steps 7–8 for dozens of thousands of hours
    10. Fill areas A₁-Ax

    Don't save your virginity for marriage. Save seeing a Rothko in person for your stillborn.

    Reply
  • March 18, 2019 at 5:24 pm
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    This is a analytical hypothesis of a certain mind fucking..it's
    Mediforicly a mere wall ornamental thing to add design to a blank wall.
    Adding minimal colors simplisticly….I expect a bashing back it's all love..

    Reply
  • March 19, 2019 at 5:18 pm
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    Come oooonn…you gotta be kidding me…. this is not “art”. This is a load of b/s…

    Reply
  • March 20, 2019 at 2:17 am
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    @theartassignment I love your channel and am so glad I discovered it. I was deadset against abstract art for a time and other forms of art, literature, poetry, etc. but channels like this one are really showing me that there’s more to these mediums. I love exploring this new world and I’m so grateful a channel like yours puts out such consistent and great content that helps me do that.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  • March 20, 2019 at 4:50 am
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    I live in Houston and I occasionally visit the Rothko chapel. The silence, along with the massive paintings makes it a very reflective, introspective experience.

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  • March 21, 2019 at 4:02 pm
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    An extremely dull, pretentious and tedious painter.

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  • March 23, 2019 at 1:19 pm
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    I was fortunate to see a Rothko retrospective in the Guggenheim in the seventies
    It began at the top with his early works. Gradually one followed his process until at the bottom
    Only darkness and I burst into tears, I was completely overwhelmed by such sadness
    and hopelessness,i was stunned.He made me feel HIM and I have loved him ever since

    Reply
  • March 25, 2019 at 9:19 pm
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    A charlatan!, he knew nothing about the specific pigments he used. Maintainers have a lot of work to do with his work. Most of his paintings lose their brightness too soon! He was like a " master" butcher without any knowledge of preserving meat, making jerky, etc for example. Just a butcher!… His work took off only after rich people decided to make easy money from him, unfortunately they didn't know about his absence of knowledge of the material, so now they are being in the trap of losing millions…

    Reply
  • March 26, 2019 at 9:24 am
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    4:20 mins of effort to prove a meaningless hilarious coloured pieces are so great with most possible pretentious way.. funny critics of modern art

    Reply
  • March 27, 2019 at 3:36 am
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    Rothko bothered me more than any other artist I had ever encountered, triggering the "I can do that." response. But the more I saw of his work, and learned more about him, the more I appreciated his work. I went to the Rothko Chapel and sat for what I thought was a few minutes staring at his dark works. I felt a lot of conflicting and deep emotions, sadness and loneliness chief among them, when I left I realized I had been there for over two hours. I felt a sense of peace no other artist had ever evoked. Fitting he was found dead in his own color field of crimson.

    Reply
  • March 28, 2019 at 8:05 pm
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    The problem was that Rothko inspired thousands of bad imitations that clogged up regional galleries until they were gently retired to the institution's store in the basement, unmissed.

    Reply
  • April 8, 2019 at 3:23 pm
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    Fucking pretentious psycho babble bullshit!

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  • April 8, 2019 at 3:33 pm
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    thank you! I really love your art matherials ^^

    Reply
  • April 9, 2019 at 11:25 am
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    I wonder if he was in his NYC apartment looking out the windows and becoming inspired by the shape of the windows with the different panes basing that on his paintings?

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  • April 13, 2019 at 11:58 pm
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    I really don't get why abstract artist have to hate on realistic paintings? Just why? If you think art is about self expression so be it, but claiming your style is better than the other is simply bullshit.

    Reply
  • April 14, 2019 at 7:01 pm
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    That vocal fry is unbearable

    Reply
  • April 18, 2019 at 12:28 am
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    why does she speaks so fast??

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  • April 21, 2019 at 4:08 am
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    The sarcasm in this piece was palpable. Love it.

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  • April 23, 2019 at 4:52 pm
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    I guess I understand that idea, but still how can we tell between someone that really means something from his art, and someone prerending to be deep.

    Reply
  • April 26, 2019 at 3:38 pm
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    Wall ornaments.. That's it..

    Reply
  • April 27, 2019 at 10:31 pm
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    My favorite intro to Rothko on you tube is a lecture series by John David Ebert.

    Reply
  • April 29, 2019 at 1:41 am
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    his art is still weird to me.

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  • April 30, 2019 at 9:02 pm
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    Looking at Rothko paintings is an amazing experience. I was lucky enough to see an exhibition in Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Needless to say that hours were spent going around, staring at them and feeling totally absorbed.. Never miss it

    Reply
  • May 3, 2019 at 4:03 am
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    He would like poltically correctness, since he aspired to purge his works of any historical, political, or___ and preferred to show only "the void"

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  • May 3, 2019 at 11:48 pm
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    This is why you shouldn't let leftists make art

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  • May 4, 2019 at 3:33 pm
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    you can fart on a snare drum..it dont make it music

    Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 7:18 am
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    Watch on mute and it is much better. Check your facts! Pause on the Rothko pieces and recast the narrator. Rothko's work is not clickbait, jumpcut, on the cheap fodder for you to decimate with crummy editing. Turn in better work Art Assignment.

    Reply
  • May 12, 2019 at 7:11 am
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    Don’t fool yourself , nothing special about his paintings , only reason he is famous and sells his paintings expensive because he comes from a jews family. That’s all …..

    Reply
  • May 24, 2019 at 9:37 am
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    you have to be a drug addicted moron who is also suffering from dementia to like shit like this

    Reply
  • May 28, 2019 at 10:55 pm
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    Great artist, great video. Thank you.

    Reply
  • June 5, 2019 at 7:49 pm
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    Really enjoyed the documentary. Learned a lot. I know most people want to experience Rothko in person, but I have just completed a Rothko video highlighted his work. Tried to capture the size of his canvases while trapped under the confines of video (aspect ratio). Perhaps there are some viewers that want to take a look at it.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2019 at 4:34 am
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    It's painting about pudding!

    Reply
  • June 17, 2019 at 7:22 am
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    Blah Blah Blah…….I think what I do is important therefore it is………

    Reply
  • June 21, 2019 at 10:20 am
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    When a Alzheimer's man, manages to pump money….

    Reply
  • June 22, 2019 at 6:27 pm
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    I don't feel it at all. and I have seen plenty of his work live.

    Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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    abstract expression always denied the accident during the production, I’m thinking what’s different between Jackson pollock and mark Rothko, do you think both are the abstract expressionist

    Reply
  • June 28, 2019 at 3:41 am
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    Gee this video is so why do I have to listen to a woman snarky and flashing pictures tell about the most obvious facts of his works? Thanks for a speed run crammed video. Not.

    Reply
  • June 28, 2019 at 3:45 am
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    The comments are lowering my Iq reading them.

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  • July 14, 2019 at 2:41 am
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    The case against Mark Rothko: His paintings are boring as shit.

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  • July 22, 2019 at 1:09 pm
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    Lol @ 1:41….. "he found his jam" Nice!

    Reply
  • July 26, 2019 at 7:27 pm
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    50 people who saw this can make those trashy paintings today and be ready in 2 months. Call NYC blah blah blah.

    Reply
  • July 30, 2019 at 11:47 am
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    I'm at the DeYoung, SF, sticking to Contemporary and Modern Art that time, viewing with double M.A. artist girlfriend. One alcove and had three Rothkos.

    The "Case for Rothko" can best be made in person. Whoomp. Better sit down. Wow. Didn't expect that hit to the heart. I turn to my gal, and she's in tears. We held hands, silent, deeply moved for a quarter hour.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2019 at 4:28 am
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    There once was a major art theft which authorities described as committed by experts – they knew the thieves were experts because they didn't take any Rothkos – told by Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show. I agree; this is the triumph of BS over talent, exceeded only by Ad Reinhart. All this intellectualizing does nothing to change that.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2019 at 10:26 am
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    Can you do one on jean michel basquiat

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  • August 20, 2019 at 3:36 am
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    You can't compare him to the Renaissance that's f**** ridiculous with the bright f**** colors

    Reply
  • August 21, 2019 at 11:17 am
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    This is why I love our century so much. Amazing art channels talking about legendary artists in high quality video format, delivered to your doorstep for free on YouTube.

    Reply

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