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Mark Rothko typically slapped colorful rectangular forms on huge pieces of canvas for the world to see.

I first “saw a Rothko” at the Smithsonian’s. Staring at the rectangles in his painting, I racked my brain trying to figure out what the artist meant to convey, but to no avail.

The next time I saw Rothko’s paintings was at the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao, Spain.

I digress. We didn’t know Bilbao had so many Rothko s, and had primarily ventured there to see the iconic titanium clad museum building. We spent two hours circling the structure, observing and admiring it, before we entered.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Back to Rothko. The first massive room we entered had several Rothko paintings. This time I had my family with me.

The first Rothko (near the entrance) had two approximate rectangles, one blue and one yellow. I gazed at it, trying to figure out what the painting meant.

Finally, I brought my eight year old son back to the first painting and asked him what it implied.

His exasperated reply: “Don’t you see?” The “see” word was rather elongated. “The blue is the ocean and the yellow is the beach!”


The next painting had three approximate rectangles. The three rectangles were white, grey and black in color.

I stared and I stared. Nope, nothing jumped out. Try as I might, my missus and I couldn’t even drag anything out. She had a PhD in Physics. I should have at least pursued a Bachelor’s in the Arts.

My only recourse was to ask my eight year old. Again he repeated, Don’t you see?” The elongation was also repeated.

”The white color is life, the black color resembles death, and the grey is (in)between life and death.”

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