This is entry #84 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.
Philosopher: Renee Jorgensen (University of Michigan)
Artwork: Untitled #14, Oil paint on stretched canvas, 290.83 cm x 268.29 cm by Mark Rothko, (1960)
Words: I hated this painting when I first saw it, printed roughly one square inch in a textbook. But in person, the nine-foot canvas hums with subtle variations of color and texture, and one can’t look away. I love it because despite its size, it’s soft, even quiet. It invites reflection without dictating its direction; there is as much space here for melancholy as for exuberance. Though Rothko himself was emphatically anti-representational, to me this piece feels like the night sky during wildfire season: the orange-red of the glow from distant flames, up against the deep blues of the nocturnal landscape.