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Lot 31: Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Contemporary Art - Part I
May 8, 1996
New York, NY, USA
Description: MAROON ON BLUE signed and dated 1957-60 on the reverse oil on canvas 92 by 701/2 in. 233.7 by 179.1 cm. A pinnacle of classic abstraction, Maroon on Blue embodies a mastery of color and formal nuance, accomplishing Rothko"s desire for "the simple expression of the complex thought."" (Mark Rothko, Possibilities, No. I, 1947-48, p. 84). The painting"s spectral presence and rhythmic balance of elusive shapes marks the culmination of a long development in which the artist increasingly reduced his pictorial vocabulary to produce works of essential purity. For Rothko, color became the vessel of his spiritual expression. By saturating the threads of the canvas with pigment, Rothko collapsed the distance between material and support and created works of sophisticated radiance. The rich, brilliant hues of Maroon on Blue seem to possess an inner light, as the rectangular shapes advance and retreat on the surface of the canvas. With pigments that are at once sensuously robust and deeply ethereal, the painting achieves a magical suspension of presence and weightlessness. The deep, suggestive plums silhouette the central flame of red and hover over the crystalline ground of blue. The vibrant colors surpass their sheer physical presence, becoming metaphors for the voice of human emotion. In an homage to the artist in 1971, Robert Motherwell stated, "Rothko"s real genius was that out of color he had created a language of feeling."" (Dore Ashton, About Rothko, 1983, p. 139). Rothko equated painting with experience. He insisted that "pictures must be miraculous: the instant one is completed the intimacy between the creation and the creator is ended. He is an outsider. The picture must be for him, as for anyone experiencing it later, a revelation, an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need."" (Possibilities, p. 84). With its large scale, Maroon on Blue seems to meet the viewer"s gaze, surrounding him, and effecting this "miraculous revelation."" Provenance: Sidney Janis Gallery, New York Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Meriden, Connecticut (acquired from the above in 1961) Andy Williams, Los Angeles (Sold: Sotheby"s, May 15, 1980, lot 540) Pace Gallery, New York Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1983 Exhibited: Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, 1961 - 1962 Literature: Marc Glimcher, ed., The Art of Mark Rothko, New York, 1991, pl. 38, illustrated in color Property from the Collection of Helen W. Benjamin.