A Rothko Conversation

“We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.”


He had a ticket to an all-age show. Is that, you asked, an excuse? No.
To end one’s life is to force matters to a conclusion the universe
Wouldn’t agree to— utterly American in his rapacity despite the subtle

streaks of color. The cool, waiting folds of a feather bed are graves
in another country, dug to clasp bodies we didn’t know or forgot
in an earthy embrace this painter calls bleeding—a pint of oneself

escapes while the rest, diminished, keeps flowing. Arteries of streets
and country paths, no matter, all lead to one heart and that is, you sd,
the core. No more. No less. Your brand of religiosity, I sd, is a mess.

What of the scattered bleeping smears on a windshield after you’ve
driven through? As far as I know, dead no matter the species don’t
join to make one mighty band of color but rather stay as they are:

dead. Or the wild boar I saw once strapped to the hood of a car: no
dignity. Or the woman at the piano who imagines her song goes out
to everyone only hits the walls of her bedroom—a splotch of sound

floating for a moment above the others (a cry, a punch), before it
dissolves into adieu. And that, I sd, is what this particular artist
is trying to do: show how trembling, sad and separate we are. But,

you sd, We share a common surface. Fine. That’s true. Still,
the canvas kills our precious little claims on life with size,
huge in appetite—a triumphant and unrepentant American will.