Posts Tagged 'Red'

Seeing Red

This month we have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with our neighbors at the Dallas Theater Center on their play Red,  showing until March 24. Red, a two-actor play about the painter Mark Rothko, focuses on an enormous commission Rothko received from the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York. During the play, Rothko’s fictional assistant Ken increasingly probes and questions Rothko about his intentions for his Seagram paintings as well as his theories on art.

To experience the play, audience members must walk directly into a re-creation of Rothko’s studio—the play’s set—and sit around its perimeter. Rothko intended viewers of his work to be completely immersed in his paintings. Reflecting that intention, viewers of Red must be completely immersed in the play, literally sitting in the set among the actors.

Our collaboration with DTC began with a DMA-hosted workshop for staff from both organizations. (Read about the impetus for the collaboration and the staff workshop on our blog Uncrated.) As part of the collaboration, we invited area high-school students to a matinee of Red followed by an in-depth and interactive conversation about Mark Rothko and related artists in the DMA galleries.

shannon RED

Of course we spent time visually exploring Rothko’s Orange, Red and Red. We encouraged the students to immerse themselves in the painting. We reminded them of Rothko’s line from the play:

“You’ve got to get close.  Let it pulsate […] Let it wrap its arms around you; let it embrace you, filling even your peripheral vision so nothing else exists or has ever existed or will ever exist.  Let the picture do its work—But work with it.  Meet it halfway…Engage with it!”

We asked students to describe the experience of entering into the painting as if it were a place. What do you see? What does it smell like? How is the weather? How would you describe this place to someone who has never been there?

We also explored the work of artists that Rothko discusses in the play, such as Pablo Picasso and Robert Rauschenberg. Rothko’s character says “We destroyed Cubism… We stomped it to death.  Nobody can paint a Cubist picture today.” Students investigated Picasso’s Bottle of Port and Glass and discussed the ideas behind Cubism in comparison to Rothko’s process and ideas about art. Similar discussions were facilitated around Rauschenberg’s Skyway, and we talked about the cycle of artists creating art in response or in opposition to artists that came before them. In Red, Rothko worries that the “young artists” like Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg are out to kill him, much in the same way he claims to have destroyed the Cubists.

Lastly, we looked at Karla Black’s installation Exactly That in comparison to Orange, Red and Red.  The students responded in a number of ways: Both incorporate large rectangular forms; The process to create both was precise and thought out. One student noticed that both included a perimeter of some sort. However, he thought that Rothko’s soft brown outlines drew viewers into the painting, while Black’s hanging strips of tape functioned like a barrier.

What kinds of comparisons can you make with these works?

Be sure to check out new online teaching materials about Rothko on CONNECT! And thanks to our colleagues at DTC for this great collaboration!

Artworks shown:

  • Mark Rothko, Orange, Red and Red, 1962, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated
  • Pablo Picasso, Bottle of Port and Glass, 1919, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund, The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation, Deedie and Rusty Rose, The Pollock Foundation, Mary Noel Lamont and Bill Lamont, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas O. Hicks, Howard E. Rachofsky, an anonymous donor, Mrs. Charlene Marsh in honor of Tom F. Marsh, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. George A. Shutt, Dr. Joanne Stroud Bilby, Mr. and Mrs. Barron U. Kidd, Natalie (Schatzie) and George T. Lee, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy L. Halbreich, Dr. and Mrs. Bryan Williams, and Mr. and Mrs. William E. Rose
  • Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund
  • Karla Black, Exactly That, 2012, Courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London and Galerie Gisele Captain, Cologne

Andrea V. Severin
Interpretation Specialist

DMA and DTC: Collaboration Inspired by Mark Rothko

The Dallas Museum of Art and its Arts District neighbor, Dallas Theater Center, are collaborating in an unprecedented way on the upcoming production of John Logan’s Tony Award-winning play Red, a bio-drama about iconic 20th-century artist Mark Rothko. Rothko once said, “I think of my pictures as dramas; the shapes in the pictures are the performers.”

Months ago, Joel Ferrell (DTC’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Red) and Bob Lavallee (set designer) came to the DMA for a sneak peek at our Rothko painting currently in art storage so that they could examine the stretcher and the back of the canvas.

Joel Ferrell, Bob LaVallee, and Mark Leonard looking at the back of our Rothko painting currently in art storage.

Bob LaVvallee and Mark Leonard in art storage

Bob discussed his preliminary plans to turn the 9th floor of the Wyly Theatre into Rothko’s Bowery Studio. Joel mentioned that the actors portraying Rothko (Kieran Connolly) and his assistant Ken (Jordan Brodess) in Red will be priming and painting a canvas on stage to music in a “muscular dance,” and that “they wanted to get it right.” Joel and Bob peppered Mark Leonard (the DMA’s Chief Conservator) and Gabriel Ritter (the DMA’s Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art) with questions about Rothko’s use of materials, and great dialogue followed about the seriousness with which Rothko approached his art and creative process. On another visit, I helped production staff browse through books in the DMA’s Mayer Library to find the best photos of Rothko inside his studio in an effort to re-create it faithfully.

On January 16, the entire DTC staff, ranging from actors to production staff and administrators, joined DMA staff in an afternoon-long workshop. We immersed ourselves in the art of Mark Rothko through lively conversations with Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, who has written on Rothko’s techniques and directed the conservation of his Rothko Chapel paintings; by exploring works of art in the galleries with DMA staff by artists who came before and after Rothko; and through a sustained look and written reflection on Rothko’s painting Orange, Red and Red, which currently hangs in the South Concourse. We finished the afternoon by sharing our responses with each other, seeking to make meaning of what can seem to be an enigmatic painting.

Carol Mancusi-Ungaro discusses Rothko's painting technique with DTC and DMA staff.

Carol Mancusi-Ungaro discusses Rothko’s painting technique with DTC and DMA staff.

Many staff agreed that the longer you looked closely at Orange, Red and Red, the more it reveals to you and rewards you. DTC Brierley Resident Acting Company member and Master Teacher Christina Vela said, “The great masters don’t offer answers, they keep asking you questions; you’re forced to continue to struggle with them.” Bob Lavallee remarked that you have to be physically in the room with the work of art in order to really understand it (as opposed to looking at an image on a screen)–much like theater. Antay Bilgutay, Interim Director of Development, said, “Having the space and opportunity to take my time with a Rothko painting changed my perception of his work.”

Joel Ferrell shares his reactions with a DTC colleague.

Joel Ferrell shares his reactions with a DTC colleague.

We invite you to get your tickets soon to see Red, and then come to the DMA to spend time in front of this mesmerizing work of art. Imagine you are inside the world of this painting. You might ask yourself these questions:

What do you see around you?

What do you smell, hear, and taste?

What do you feel?

How might you describe this place to someone who isn’t here?

One opportunity to do just that is to attend Red In-Depth on Saturday, February 23, a program that includes a matinee performance of Red, followed by time with staff in the galleries exploring the art of Rothko and his contemporaries. Two similar in-depth experiences will take place on February 19 and 27 with middle school and high school students.

Carolyn Bess is Director of Programming and Arts & Letters Live at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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