This is my snapshot of a gray Mark Rothko on a gray museum wall.* The photo doesn’t flatter it, though it’s a little hard to make out, even in the flesh. It’s pretty spare for a Rothko. The white margin looks like a frame, but isn’t; it’s just an uncharacteristically messy and unresolved edge of white canvas.
The intriguing thing here is the pattern of shadows on the wall below the canvas. On most paintings those would just be shadows, but here they add three new shapes to the painting: the darker and lighter shadows, and the white margin at the bottom that gets folded in by them.
It’s as if Rothko had simply been quoting from life, and here is a bit of the life he was thinking of.
*Still working on the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff collection at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco until October 12.