No.5/No.22

7:00 AM

Mark Rothko, No.5/No.22, 1950
By TROY WORKMAN

My first time ever seeing a Rothko painting was painfully shallow. I saw boxes of various warm colors stacked boringly on top of each other. Assuming the painter was as repetitive and simple as his paintings, I quickly moved on to more eye catching and more viewer friendly pieces. Only after discovering that his paintings were supposed to reflect tragedy, ecstasy, and doom, I began to understand. One had to open their mind to an abstract space where they could relate abstraction to emotion.

In August of 2014, I took a two week trip to Japan with a group of peers. On our final days before heading home, we decided to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. The museum and memorial ground sits directly underneath the epicenter where the atomic bomb detonated 70 years ago. Upon entering the museum, our faculty guides warned us of the graphic content inside, and they were not joking. Locks of people's hair, cut out tongues, charred children's tricycles, school uniforms burnt on one side from the bright flash, a man's shadow burnt onto the side of a concrete building from that same flash, kitchenware fused together, mannequins depicting families with flesh melting off their limbs walking among the rubble and burning remains. Later on in the museum, we learned that one second after the bomb detonated, the center of the blast reached 2,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit and was almost 1,000 feet in diameter. The entire city was flattened instantly.

This painting reminds me of the bombing of Hiroshima.

The intensely warm and radiant colors saturate the canvas in a fiery haze. The city blazes the most vivid red separating the broiling sky and the scorching earth. The rivers shrivels only to faint insignificant white lines strewed across the red city. The masses of flames blend each level of hell together in one grand array of suffering and death. The bomb acts as a colossal furnace mindlessly cremating one hundred fifty thousand people simultaneously. For me, Rothko embodies the spirit of helplessness of Hiroshima in this painting.

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