Mark Rothko and White Noise

8:00 AM


Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1968
What do you see? Behind the vibrant scarlet and haunting black, lies the story of a lonely, neurotic, and insightful man. The painting hits you, and leaves you dumbfounded while you search for words to describe how you feel. The colors drown you in their dark pallete, and make you gasp for air. The massive rectangles berate the viewer from their silent background. 

The viewer feels as though Rothko is in on the secrets of life. He put life onto a canvas for the world to decipher. Some of his work rings happier and lighter. Yet in his work Untilted, painted in 1968, there are no peaceful undertones. Instead Rothko paints a picture of the eternal truth, - every human being is dying. The canvas forces the viewer to see death is imminent and everywhere. Much like Jack Gladney in Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise, there comes a time when people must accept their fate.  White Noise written in 1985, focuses on the life of Jack Gladney, a college professor, as he confronts his fear of death. The obsession with mortality becomes heightened when a drug called Dylar becomes available to help alleviate the fear of dying. As Delilo writes, “No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die”. There is no way to avoid it, and we are intelligent enough to realize death has a place in our lives. The realization separates humans from animals. 

Rothko does an imaginable deed painting death. Human suffering comes to life on the canvas. Yet, maybe Rothko is giving the people the push they need. If you can confront death, and acknowledge it, perhaps you can truly live. 

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