Four Darks in Red

7:00 AM

Mark Rothko, Four Darks in Red, 1958
By MELISA CAPAN

I’ll admit that I truly didn’t understand Mark Rothko and whatever he had been doing and why a painting of a colored square could cost millions and millions of dollars. I allowed myself to open a little shelf in my mind to the idea that maybe this is reasonable. What I came across was Existentialism. Rothko read many Existentialist papers, like those of Nietzsche (“God is dead” dude). The idea of Existentialism emphasizes an individual’s responsibility to shape his/her life in a world of nothingness. Sure, this can be an extremely depressing thought that human oblivion is inevitable, but it gave Rothko a chance at self-expression. He considered himself to be a “human being” who wasn’t caught up in society’s façade of wealth and superficial conversation. He sought for existence and hoped his audience would interpret his art in a way that never needed to be explained or critiqued by others.

Good thing I’m part of the audience because now I can try and interpret Rothko’s Four Darks in Red. The piece can easily be associated with the quote from John Logan’s Red, “One day the black will swallow the red,” Red being life and black being death. That’s a dark and gloomy Existentialist thought. I look at the painting and it reminds me of something all women go through, every month actually. The strokes of red lash around the darker toned shapes until it reaches the thick blackness. Once a month I feel like this and it feels like death itself. I’m happy and then all of a sudden I’m sobbing thinking the world doesn’t matter.

The large black shape is this nothingness. Tears drip from my face and I wonder what the point in life is after Shonda Rhimes kills, yet again, one of my favorite characters on Grey’s Anatomy. Pain of the deep reds mimic the emotional drainage I make up in my head. Next thing I know I am snapping at my mom about the tiny coffee stain on my shirt and how it ruined my whole outfit in which I exaggerate to ruining my whole life. Just as it ends, I await for the next cycle, Much like life and death. Much like Four Darks in Red. The painting seems to shift from shade to shade, being linked by a bright red that brings everything together.

This piece of artwork pulsates, explodes and then disappears as my eyes move around it. I understand Mark Rothko’s Four Darks in Red to be a cycle, whether it is the female cycle or the cycle of life, it continues.
 

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