m 0 0 m 180 1 l 0 1 l 0 0 l 180 0
Let the picture pulsate, let it work on you.
Let it wrap its arms around you.
Let it embrace you, filling even your peripheral vision
so nothing else exists or has ever existed
Let the picture do its work.
Meet it halfway for God's sake.
Lean forward, lean into it, engage with it.
Oh no, no, wait, wait, wait.
But sensitive, you understand.
Be a human being, that's all I can say.
Be a human being for once in your life.
These pictures deserve compassion
and they live or die in the eye of the sensitive viewer.
They quicken only if the empathetic viewer will let them.
That is what they cry out for.
That is why they were created.
That is what they deserve.
- Red? - But do ya like it?
Everyone likes everything now a days.
They like the television and the phonograph
and the soda pop and the shampoo and the Cracker Jack.
Everything becomes everything else.
It's all nice and pretty and likable.
Everything's fun in the sun, huh?
Where's the arbitration that separates what I like
from what I respect, what I deem worthy?
Maybe this is a dinosaur talking.
Maybe I'm just a dinosaur sucking up the oxygen
from you cunning little mammals hiding in the bushes
Maybe I'm speaking a lost language
unknown to your generation.
But a generation that does not aspire to seriousness,
to meaning, is unworthy to walk in the shadow
of those who have gone before.
I mean those who have struggled and surmounted,
I mean those who have aspired.
I mean Michelangelo and Matisse.
I want to be a painter so I guess I aspire to painting.
Then those clothes won't do.
Hang up your jacket outside.
You put on your Sunday clothes to impress me.
It's poignant really, it touches me
This isn't a god-damn old world salon
with teacakes and lemonade.
Go hang up your jacket outside.
Sidney told you what I need here?
We start every morning at nine and we work until five.
You'll help me stretch the canvases, mix the paints,
clean the brushes, build the stretchers,
move the paintings, also help apply ground color,
So any lunatic assumptions
you make in that direction you need to banish immediately.
You'll pick up food, cigarettes, anything else I want,
any whim, no matter how demanding or demeaning.
You don't like that you can leave right now.
I'm not your rabbi, I'm not your father,
I'm not your teacher, I'm not your friend.
I am your employer, you understand?
- Yes. - As my assistant,
you're gonna see many things here.
You cannot talk about any of this.
Don't think I don't have enemies, because I do.
And I don't just mean those other painters
and gallery owners and museum curators
and god damn son of a bitch art critics.
Not to mention that vast panoply of disgruntled viewers
who loathe me and my work
because they do not have the heart, nor the patience,
nor the capacity to think, to understand,
because they're not even human beings like we talked about.
I'm painting a series of murals now.
I'll probably do 30 or 40.
Then choose which work best in concert, like a fugue.
You'll help me put on the undercoat.
Then I'll paint them, then I'll look at them,
then I'll paint some more.
One after another like a glaze slowly building the image,
like pentimento, letting the luminescence emerge
How do you know when it's done?
There's tragedy in every brush stroke.
Ah swell, let's have a drink.
just say the first thing that comes into your head.
Who's your favorite painter?
- Let me do it again. - No, forget it.
- Come on. - No, no, it's silly.
Who's your favorite painter?
- What? - You ever read Nietzsche?
- No. - And you call yourself an artist?
One can't discuss Pollock without it.
One can't discuss anything without it.
What do they teach you in art school now?
- Well - Byron? Wordsworth?
Oh, please God, at least Hamlet.
Quote me Hamlet right now.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
You've got a lot to learn, young man.
Philosophy, theology, literature, poetry, drama,
history, archeology, anthropology, mythology, music.
These are your tools as much as brush and pigment.
You cannot be an artist until you are civilized.
You cannot be civilized until you learn.
To be civilized is to know where you belong
in the continuum of your art and your world,
to surmount the past you must know the past.
I thought you weren't my teacher.
You should be so blessed I talk to you about art.
How do they make you feel?
They're for a restaurant.
They're for a restaurant.
So I'm minding my own business
when Mr. Philip Johnson calls me.
You know Mr Philip Johnson
the world-renowned architect?
Yeah, of course you don't know him personally.
You don't know anyone personally.
Mr. Philip Johnson, he's designing
the new Seagram Building on Park Avenue,
he and Mies van der Rohe.
These are names with which to conjure, are they not?
Philip Johnson, Mies van der Rohe,
these are titans in their field, revolutionists.
Together they are making a building,
unlike anything the world has yet seen,
reflecting the golden ambitions of not only this city
and its inhabitants, but of all mankind.
In this building there is to be a restaurant
and on the walls of this restaurant,
$35,000 they're paying me.
No other painter comes close.
Imagine a freeze all around the room.
A continuous narrative filling the walls
one to another, each a new chapter of the story unfolding.
You look and they are there.
Inescapable and inexorable, like doom.
I have to study them now.
Yeah. Most of painting is thinking.
Didn't anybody teach you that?
10% is putting paint on canvas.
All my life I've wanted just this, my friend.
a place where the viewer could live in contemplation with the work
give it some of the same attention and care
Like a chapel, a place of communion.
No, I will make it a temple.
Rothko and Rembrandt and Turner.
Rothko and Rembrandt and Turner.
Rothko and Rembrandt and Turner.
The Chinese place is closing.
Yeah, everything worthwhile ends.
We're in the perpetual process now,
creation, maturation, cessation.
There's another Chinese around the corner.
Oh the eternal cycles grind on.
Generations pass away, hope turns arid,
but there's another Chinese around the corner.
I went to the Modern last night
I don't think he's so much concerned
with generations passing away.
Oh don't kid your self kid, that man,
though now a charlatan, of course,
signing menus for money like Dali when he's not making
those, those ugly little pots, also for money,
that man at his best understood the workings of time.
to grow superfluous in your own lifetime.
We destroyed cubism, de Kooning and me
and Barnett Newman, Smith, all the others.
Nobody can paint a cubist picture today.
Stomping cubism to death?
The child must banish the father.
Respect him, but kill him.
Just be audacious and do it.
You know, courage in painting
is not facing a blank canvas,
it's facing Manet, it's facing Velasquez.
All we can do is move beyond what was there,
to what is here, and hope to gain some intimation
"What is past and passing and to come."
That's Yeats, whom you haven't read.
Picasso I thank for teaching me
that movement is everything.
we squall, we writhe, we squirm.
Now without movement paintings are what?
- Dead? - Yeah, precisely.
Look, look at the tension between the blocks of color.
The dark and the light, the red, the black and the brown.
They exist in a state of flux, of movement.
They abut each other on the actual canvas.
So too do they abut each other in your eye.
They ebb and flow and shift, gently pulsating.
The more you look at them the more they move.
Movement, communication, gesture, flux,
interaction, letting them work.
They're not dead because they're not static.
They move through space if you let them.
Now this movement takes time, so they're temporal.
They don't work without it.
Yeah, this is why it's so important to me
A place the viewer can contemplate these paintings
over time and let them move.
They're not like representational pictures,
like traditional landscapes or portraits.
Representational pictures are unchanging.
They don't require the active participation of the viewer.
In the Louvre, in the middle of the night,
the Mona Lisa's still smiling.
But do these paintings still pulse when they're alone?
That's why you keep the lights so low.
To keep it mysterious, to let the pictures pulsate.
Turn on bright lights and the stage effect is ruined.
Suddenly it's nothing but a bare stage
with a bunch of fake walls.
What does white make you think of?
It's like an operating theater now.
How does white make you feel?
- Doesn't matter. - No, no, why?
Outside the room where my parents died.
I remember the snow outside the window.
And the pictures in this light, they're flat.
Now you see how it is with them?
People think I'm controlling,
controlling the height of the pictures,
controlling the shape of the galleries.
It's not controlling, it's protecting.
A picture lives by companionship.
It dies by the same token.
Ah, it's a risky act to send it out into the world.
Oh, you mean out in nature?
Nature doesn't work for me.
Oh, I know, I know, those plein air painters,
oh my God, they'll sing to you endless paeans
about the majesty of natural sunlight.
Get out there, muck around in the grass,
they tell ya, like a cow.
Well when I was younger, I didn't know any better.
I'd go out there with my supplies
and the wind would blow the paper, the easel would fall over,
ants would get into my paint.
But then I go to Rome, for the first time.
I go to the Santa Maria del Popolo to see
Caravaggio's Conversion of Saul,
which turns out is tucked away in a dark corner
of this dark church with no natural light.
It's like a cave in there.
But that painting, it glowed.
With a sort of rapture it glowed.
he was commissioned to paint that picture for that specific place.
He stands there and he looks around.
It's like under the ocean it's so god-damn dark.
How's he gonna paint here?
"God, help me, unworthy sinner that I am.
what the fuck do I do now?"
And then it comes to him, the divine spark.
He illuminates that picture from within.
He gives it inner luminosity.
like one of those bioluminescent fish from the bottom of the ocean,
radiating its own effulgence.
Bring me the second bucket.
Are you really gonna paint?
Now what the hell do you think I have been doing?
Yeah, give me, gimme the black number four
Yeah, just a pinch of black.
Yeah, just that amount again.
Yeah, twice as much maroon.
Don't you ever do that again!
By what right do you speak?
By what right do you express an opinion on my work?
Where have you earned the right to
even exist here with me and these things you don't even understand?
Oh, you wanna paint the god-damn thing?
I don't even know what that means.
What the hell does red mean to me?
I meant the red at sunrise.
What the hell does that mean, "the feeling of it"?
I didn't mean red paint only.
I meant the emotion of red at sunrise.
I'm telling you it's not.
Sunrise is red and red is sunrise.
Red is heartbeat, red is passion.
- Peppers. - Arterial blood.
- That too. - Rust on the bike on the lawn.
Dresden firestorm at night.
Nick yourself shaving. Blood in the Barbasol.
That phone to the Kremlin on the President's desk.
Russian flag, Nazi flag, Chinese flag.
- Rouge. - Lava! Lobsters!
Oh, more than anything, you know what?
Matisse's painting, The Red Studio.
It's a picture of his own studio.
The walls are a brilliant red,
the floor, the furniture, it's all red.
It's like that color had radiated out of him
and swallowed everything up.
When the Modern first put that picture up
I spent hours looking at it.
Day after day I would go.
You could argue, everything I do today,
you can trace the bloodlines back to that painting
and those hours I spent standing there,
letting that picture work, allowing it to move.
The more I looked at it the more it pulsated around me.
I was saturated, it swallowed me.
Oh, such plains of red he made.
Such energetic blocks of pure color, such emotion...
Yeah, it was a long time ago.
How can all that red be depressing?
I don't see the red anymore.
that total and profound immersion in red, it's there.
The mantel, above a dresser, just over the center line,
set off by yellow of all god-damn things.
He wanted it inescapable.
There's only one thing in life I fear, my friend.
One day, the black will swallow the red.
That's easy for you to say, you don't know him.
I'll show it to him if I think the moment's right.
He's gotta be expecting it, right?
Don't tell me what to do.
I'll tell ya how it goes.
- Good morning. - Morning.
I went by the Seagram Building last night.
Still under construction.
Too much natural light, as always, but it'll work.
You'll be able to see the murals from the main dining room.
You ever worry it's not the right place for them?
How can it not be the right place for them?
They're being created specifically for that place.
Your logic, sometimes, baffles me.
"Birth of Tragedy", like you said.
You said if I wanted to know about Jackson Pollock
I had to read "The Birth of Tragedy".
It's very like something I would say.
First tell me what you make of the book.
Oh, that's like saying red.
You're too young to be enigmatic.
I think I know why you wanted me to read it.
Because you see yourself as Apollo
and you see him as Dionysus
Oh, don't be so pedestrian.
Dionysus is the god of wine and excess.
Of movement and transformation.
This is Pollock, wild, rebellious, drunken and unrestrained.
The raw experience itself.
Apollo is the god of order, method and boundaries.
Intellectual, rabbinical, sober and restrained.
The raw experience leavened by contemplation.
He splatters paint, you study it.
He's Dionysus and you're Apollo.
Exactly right but for entirely missing the point.
The point is always the tragedy.
can be so easily divided into character types?
You think the multifarious complexities and nuances
of the psyche, evolving through countless generations
perverted and demented through social neurosis
and personal anguish or molded by faith,
or lack of faith, can all be so god-damn simple?
Pollock is emotion, Rothko is intellect?
Oh, you embarrass yourself.
Maybe it's like one of your paintings.
Dark and light, order and chaos, existing at the same time
in the same plain, pulsing back and forth.
We're subjects of both Apollo and Dionysus,
We ebb and flow, like the colors in your pictures.
The ecstasy of the Dionysian at war
with the restraint of the Apollonian.
- Not at war. - Not at war?
It's not really conflict. More like symbiosis.
Dionysus' passion is focused,
is made bearable by Apollo's will to form.
In fact, the only way we can endure
the sheer ferocity of Dionysus' emotion
is because we have the control and intelligence of Apollo,
otherwise the emotion would overwhelm us.
So back and forth we go, myth to myth, pulsating.
Yeah, and the perfect life will be perfectly balanced
between the two, everlastingly on that fulcrum.
But our tragedy is we can never achieve that balance.
We exist, all of us, for all time,
in a state of perpetual dissonance.
Oh, we long for the raw truth of emotion
and can only endure it with the cool lie of reason.
We seek to capture the ephemeral, the miraculous,
put it on to canvas, stopping time but,
like an entomologist pinning a butterfly,
We're foolish that way, we human beings.
We try to make the red black.
But the black is always there, like the mantel in Matisse.
Like the snow outside your window.
And once glimpsed, you can't help but be preoccupied with it
for the intimations of our own mortality are.
Ah, but still we go on, clinging to that tiny bit of hope,
that red, that makes the rest endurable.
Or just less unendurable.
Yeah, well, that's my friend Jackson Pollock.
Finally it was just unendurable.
- What do you mean? - His suicide.
He didn't commit suicide.
Jackson Pollock died in a car accident.
A man spends years of his life getting drunk.
Day after day the guy is hammered.
He then gets into an Oldsmobile convertible,
races round these little country roads like a goddamn lunatic.
You tell me what that is if not a lazy suicide.
Oh, believe you me, when I commit suicide
there won't be any doubt about it.
No mysterious crumpled car in a ditch.
Ah, gives me a headache it's so boring.
- When you commit suicide? - What?
You said, "When I commit suicide".
- No, I didn't. - Yes, you did.
Let me tell you something about your hero.
That man, he confronted his tragedy.
He was valiant in the face of it.
He endured as long as he could
and then he tried to recede from his life.
He grew tired of his form.
He grew tired of himself.
He lost his faith in his viewers.
He no longer believed there were any real human beings left
to even look at pictures.
How does that happen to a man?
Oh, better you should ask how occasionally it doesn't happen.
He's young, he's famous, he has money.
Here's a schmuck from Wyoming who can paint.
Suddenly he's a commodity.
Let me tell you, kid, that Oldsmobile convertible,
Not because it crashed, because it existed.
Why the fuck did Jackson Pollock
have an Oldsmobile convertible?
So artists should starve?
Yes, artists should starve.
Hey, you would have loved Jackson.
He was a downtown guy, real Bohemian.
No banker's hours for him, believe you me.
Every night, with the talking and the drinking
and the fighting and the dancing and the staying up late,
he was like everyone's romantic idea
of what an artist ought to be.
Huh, he was the anti-Rothko.
At his worst, ya still loved him, though.
You loved him because he loved art so much.
Jackson thought it mattered.
He thought painting mattered.
Does not the poignancy of that just stop your heart?
How could this story not end in tragedy?
that we may not perish from truth".
Well, Pollock saw some truth.
And then he didn't have art to protect him any more.
Oh, I was walking up to my house last week
and a couple was passing.
The lady looks inside my window and says,
"Oo, I wonder who owns all those Rothkos".
Just like that I've become a noun.
- A what? - The overmantels.
You know, those paintings doomed to become mere decoration,
over the fireplace in the fancy schmancy penthouse.
"I need something to work with the sofa.
Something bright and cheery for the breakfast nook,
You got something in orange?
Here's a paint chip from the Sherwin-Williams.
Oh, and can you chop it down to fit the sideboard?"
Or worse, "Darling, I simply must have one
because my neighbor has one, that social-climbing bitch.
In fact, if she has one, I need three."
"The New York Times" says I gotta have one.
"The New York Times" says I gotta have one
because I haven't got time to read The New York Times any more.
"Oh, no, no, no, no, don't make me look at it.
No, I never actually look at it.
"It's so god-damn depressing.
"Jesus, all those fuzzy rectangles.
"My kid could do this in kindergarten.
"The whole thing's a scam.
"This guy's nothing but a fraud."
It's screwing the neighbors.
It's cheaper than a Pollock.
It's interior decoration.
It's anything but what it is.
Let's, let's prime the canvas.
It's a, it's a good ground.
A good base layer. Nice and even.
Yeah, we'll see when it dries.
Then maybe I can start to paint.
You really care what I think?
- Nothing. - No, what is it?
I'm remembering something.
- The color is - Is what?
When the blood dried it got darker.
When the blood dried it got darker.
I remember being surprised by that.
Yeah? What happened to your parents?
I don't wanna talk about it.
I honestly don't remember it too well.
I woke up and the first thing I saw
was the snow outside my window.
I was glad it snowed because it was Saturday
My dad would take me sledding, me and my sister,
but, but I didn't smell anything.
Normally my mom would be up making breakfast.
They were those Neolite ones that look like moccasins.
There's a window open somewhere.
She's just standing in the hallway,
staring into my parents' room.
My sister, she's standing in a puddle of pee.
I go to the door and look in
Outside the window, so much snow.
Maybe I'll still go sledding.
The bed's stained with it.
Apparently it was a knife, I found out later.
But right now, I don't know what to do.
I don't want my sister to see any more.
I turn around and push her out and shut the door.
We, we went to the neighbors.
What happened to you two?
People were nice, actually.
They, they kept us together.
But they shuffled us around a lot.
She's married to a CPA now.
- They ever find the guys who did it? - No.
I paint pictures of them sometimes.
You paint pictures of the men who killed your parents?
What I imagine them to look like.
When I was a kid in Russia, I saw the Cossacks
cutting people up and tossing them into pits.
Least I think I remember that.
Maybe someone told me about it,
or I'm just being dramatic.
It's hard to tell sometimes.
- How old were you when you came here? - 10.
alongside all the other talky, thinky Jews.
I was Marcus Rothkowitz then.
Yeah, my first dealer said he had
too many Jewish painters on his books.
So Marcus Rothkowitz becomes Mark Rothko.
Now, nobody knows I'm a Jew.
Are you really scared of black?
No, I'm really scared of the absence of light.
And you equate the color black with death.
Yes, yes, I equate the color black
with the diminution of the life force.
Black means decay and darkness.
Because black is the lack of red, if you will.
Because black is the opposite of red.
Not on the spectrum, but in reality.
I'm talking about in painting.
Well then talk about painting.
In your pictures, the bold colors
are the Dionysian element, kept in check
by the strict geometric shapes, the Apollonian element.
The bright colors are your passion,
your will to survive, your life force.
But if black swallows those bright colors,
then you lose that excess and extravagance,
and what do you have left?
Go on, I'm fascinated by me.
and you have order with no content.
You have mathematics with no numbers.
Nothing but empty, arid boxes.
And trust me, as you get older
those colors are harder to sustain.
We race to catch it before it's gone.
- Never mind. - No, what?
It's kind of sentimental to equate black with death.
That seems an antiquated notion.
we both know black's a tool,
just like ochre or magenta.
Seeing it as malevolent is a weird sort of
What about equating white with death,
That's just a personal reaction.
I'm not building a whole artistic sensibility around it.
- I really don't think you've... - Use your own life, why not?
- It's not that I don't... - Unless you're scared of it.
- Get into all that white! - I'm not scared!
It's just self-indulgent.
Not all art has to be psychodrama.
You paint pictures of the men who killed your parents.
Yeah, well maybe it should be.
Then maybe you'd understand what black is.
- Back to that. - Always.
At least equating white with death isn't so predictable.
- Kind of. - Dishonest and predictable!
and the color black starts to infuse his work.
Therefore, the clichée declension goes he's depressed,
he's fearing death, he's losing touch,
he's losing relevance, he's saying goodbye.
Yeah, that's a cliche except for when it's not.
His last pictures are all color.
He goes out and paints the most ecstatic yellows and blues
known to man, then shoots himself.
Or Matisse, his last works were nothing
but great shocks of primary colors.
Well, Matisse, he was dying.
He knew he was dying, but still he was Matisse.
When he got too ill to hold a paintbrush
he used scissors, cutting up paper and making collages.
On his deathbed he was still
organizing the color patterns on the ceiling.
And you think I'm the romantic!
Oh, can't you do any better than that?
struggling with his last puny gasp to finish
And Jackson Pollock, the beautiful doomed youth,
dying like Chatterton in his classic Pieta-pose.
Oh, and Van Gogh, of course Van Gogh,
trotted out on all occasions,
the ubiquitous symbol for everything.
Van Gogh the misunderstood martyr!
when you reduce them to your adolescent stereotypes.
Oh, grapple with them, yes.
But don't think you understand them.
Don't think you have captured them.
Spend a lifetime with them, a lifetime,
you might have one moment of insight into their pain!
Until then, allow them their grandeur in silence.
In the National Gallery in London
there's a painting by Rembrandt.
It's called Belshazzar's Feast.
It's an Old Testament story from Daniel.
Belshazzar, the King of Babylon,
is giving a feast and he blasphemes,
and writes some Hebrew words on the wall as a warning.
In the painting, those words, they,
they pulsate from the dark canvas like something miraculous.
Rembrandt's Hebrew was atrocious, as you can imagine,
"You have been weighed in the balance
and have been found wanting."
That's what black is to me.
They're trying to kill me.
I swear to God they're trying to kill me.
Those presumptuous, counter-jumping,
These are the same god-damn walls where I hang.
Polluted now beyond sanitation, beyond hygiene
like the East River, choked up with garbage.
All that superficial, meaningless sewage
right up there on those walls!
This is the same sacred space as De Kooning
and Motherwell and Smith and Pollock and...
- Chet Baker. - Ah, just when I thought
today couldn't get worse.
When you pay the rent, ya can pick the records!
So, how did you like the exhibit?
Those young artists, they're out to murder me.
Yeah, but not inaccurate.
You think Jasper Johns is trying to murder you?
- What about Frank Stella? - Yes.
- Robert Rauschenberg? - Yes.
- Roy Lichtenstein? - Which one is he?
You sound like an old man.
- Not that old. - Yeah, today I'm old.
Look, my point is, people like me,
my contemporaries, my colleagues, all those painters
who came up with me, we all had one thing in common,
we understood the importance of seriousness.
- You heard me. - What the hell did you say to me?
Who are you to assume they're not serious?
- Oh, look at their work. - I have.
No, not like you usually look at things,
like an over-eager undergraduate.
- I have. - Yeah, and what do ya see?
- Nevermind. - No, never mind, never mind.
In all those flags and comic books
This moment, right now, and a little bit tomorrow.
Oh, you think that's good?
It's neither good nor bad, but it's what people want.
So art shouldn't be popular at all now?
It shouldn't only be popular!
You may not like it, but nowadays as many people
are genuinely moved by Frank Stella as by Mark Rothko.
- Nonsense. - Don't think so.
You know the problem with these painters?
It's exactly what you just said.
they're painting for this moment, right now.
It's nothing but zeitgeist art.
Completely temporal, completely disposable, like Kleenex.
Like Campbell's soup, like comic books.
Oh, you think Andy Warhol's gonna be hanging in museums
Alongside the Bruegels and Vermeers?
He's hanging alongside Rothko now.
Because those god-damn galleries'll do anything for money!
Cater to any wicked taste!
That's business, young man, it's not art.
You ever get tired of telling people what art is?
What, better you should tell me?
You're just mad because the barbarians are at the gate.
And what do you know, people seem to like the barbarians.
God dammit, of course they like it.
That's the god-damn point.
You know what people like now,
They like happy, bright colors.
They want things to be pretty.
They want things to be beautiful.
Jesus, when someone tells me one of my pictures
is beautiful I wanna vomit!
- What's wrong with... - Pretty, beautiful, nice, fine.
God, that's our life now.
We put on the funny nose and the glasses
and we all slip on the banana peel,
and the TV makes everything happy,
everyone's laughing all the god-damn time.
It's our constitutional right to be amused
We've become a smirking nation,
living under the tyranny of fine.
How are you feeling?Fine.
You like the painting?Fine.
How about some dinner?Fine.
Well, let me tell you, everything is not fine!
You see a dark rectangle,
like a doorway, an aperture, yeah,
but it's also a gaping mouth letting out a silent howl
of something feral and foul and primal and real.
Something divine or damned!
Not soup cans or god-damn comic books!
Something beyond me and beyond now!
And whatever it is, it's not pretty, it's not beautiful.
I'm here to stop your heart!
I'm here to make you think!
I'm not here to make pretty pictures!
the second before you stomped him to death.
"Tragic, really, to grow superfluous in your own lifetime."
"The child must banish the father.
Respect him, but kill him."
Isn't that what you said?
You guys went after the cubists and surrealists
and, boy, did you love it.
And now your time has come and you don't wanna go.
Well, exit stage left, Rothko.
Because pop art has banished abstract expressionism
I only pray to God they have more generosity of spirit than you do,
and allow you some dignity as you go.
consider the last gasp of a dying race.
Don't worry, you can always sign menus for money.
- Do you know where I live? - What?
- Do you know where I live in the city? - No.
- Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn? - No.
- You know if I'm married? - What?
- Dating, queer, anything? - No!
- What's this got to... - Two years I've been working here.
Eight hours a day, five days a week
and you know nothing about me?
You ever once asked me to dinner?
Maybe come to your house?
- What this got to do... - You know I'm a painter, don't you?
- Answer me, you know I'm a painter? - Yes.
Have you ever once asked to look at my work?
- Why should I? - Why should you?
You're an employee. This is all about me.
Everything here is about me.
You don't like that, leave.
Oh, is that what this is all about?
Baby feels wounded, daddy didn't pat you on the head?
Mommy didn't hug you today?
- Stop it! - Don't blame me, I didn't kill them.
Oh, go find yourself a psychiatrist
and quit whining to me about it!
Christ Almighty, try working for you for a living.
Titanic self-absorption of the man.
You stand there trying to look so deep
when you're nothing but a solipsistic bully
with your grandiose self-importance and lectures and arias
and let's look at the fucking canvas for another few weeks,
Jesus Christ, the pretension.
I can't imagine any other painter
in the history of art ever tried so hard to be significant.
You know not everything has to be
so god-damn important all the time.
Not every painting has to rip your guts out
Not everyone wants art that actually hurts.
Sometimes you just want a fucking still life
or landscape, or soup can, or comic book.
Which you might learn if you ever actually left
your god-damn hermetically sealed submarine in here
with all the windows closed and no natural light
because natural light isn't good enough for you.
But then nothing is ever good enough for you.
Not even the people who buy your pictures.
Museums are nothing but mausoleums,
galleries are run by pimps and swindlers,
and art collectors are nothing but shallow social-climbers.
So who is good enough to own your art?
Or maybe the real question is
who's good enough to even see your art?
Is it just possible no-one is worthy
to look at your paintings?
We have all been "weighed in the balance
and have been found wanting".
You say you spend your life in search of real human beings,
people who can look at your pictures with compassion
but in your heart you no longer believe those people exist.
I don't think you'd recognize a real human being
if he were standing right in front of you.
Oh, don't give up so easy.
You do make one salient point,
though not the one you think.
I do get depressed when I think
how people are gonna look at my pictures.
If they're going to be unkind.
Selling a picture's like sending a blind child
into a room full of razor blades.
It's never been hurt before.
It doesn't know what hurt is.
Which is why I'm looking to do something different
They're less vulnerable somehow, more robust.
Some hues from the earth even to give them strength.
They'll always have each other
for protection and companionship.
And most important, they're going to a place
A place of reflection and safety.
A place of contemplation.
A place with no distractions.
Like The Four Seasons restaurant?
At least Andy Warhol gets the joke.
No, you don't understand!
It's a fancy restaurant in a big high-rise
owned by a rich corporation, what don't I understand?
You don't understand my intention.
Your intention is immaterial.
Unless you're gonna stand there for the rest of your life,
next to the pictures, giving your lectures,
which you'd probably enjoy,
the art has to speak for itself, yes?
The truth is you mix your hypocrisy,
the high priest of modern art
is painting a wall in the temple of consumption.
You rail against commercialism in art, but, pal,
No, I'm doing more than--
Sure, you could try to kid yourself you're making a
holy place of contemplative awe
but in reality, you're just decorating
another dining room for the super-rich.
And these things are nothing but the world's
most expensive overmantels.
Why do you think I took this commission?
It appealed to your vanity.
They could have gone to De Kooning, they went to you.
It's the flashiest mural commission
since the Sistine Chapel.
Oh, you would have turned it down?
It's your Oldsmobile convertible.
Come on, you don't need the money.
You don't need the publicity.
Why make yourself a hypocrite
for the Seagram Corporation?
I did not enter into this capriciously.
And of course it appealed to my vanity.
Come on, I'm a human being too.
And the very same thoughts.
Am I feeding the whims of the bourgeoisie?
I know that place is where the richest bastards in New York
will come to feed and show off!
And I hope to ruin the appetite of every
son-of-a-bitch who eats there!
You mention this to the Seagrams people?
It would be a compliment if they turned the murals down.
I don't know that I believe you.
This malicious intent of yours.
The old lion still roaring, still trying to provoke,
to be relevant, stick it to the bourgeoisie,
Your paintings aren't weapons.
You would never do that to them,
never reduce them like that.
Maybe you started the commission thinking that way,
You couldn't help it, that's what you do.
You've painted yourself into a corner,
you should forgive the expression.
Their power will transcend the setting.
Working together, moving in rhythm,
whispering to each other.
They will still create a place.
Oh, you think I'm kidding myself.
You think this is all an act of
monumental self delusion?
This is the first time you've existed.
You want a towel or something?
The Four Seasons restaurant.
After our chat, yesterday.
It's been open couple of weeks now.
Thought I should finally take a look.
And then you go up some stairs to the restaurant.
You hear the room before you see it.
Glasses clinking, silverware, voices, hushed here
but building as you get closer.
like forced gaiety at gunpoint.
You go in, feel fat, feel under-dressed,
feel too god-damn Jewish for this place.
Pretty hostess gives you a look that says,
I know who you are and I'm not impressed.
We get millionaires in here, pal.
She snaps for the maitre d' who snaps for the captain
who snaps for the head waiter who brings you
through the crowd to your table, heads turning,
everyone looking at everyone else all the time,
Do I need to acquire you?
Wine guy comes, speaks French,
you obviously don't understand, he doesn't care.
You embarrass yourself ordering something expensive
just to impress the wine guy, who goes, unimpressed.
And then, you can't help it.
You start hearing what people are saying all around you,
It's the chatter of monkeys and the barking of jackals.
And everybody's clever, everybody's laughing,
no one looks at anything, no one thinks about anything.
All they do is chatter and bark and eat,
and the knives and forks click and clack and the words cut
and the teeth snap and snarl.
And in that place, there,
will live my paintings for all time.
do you think they'll ever forgive me?
Turn that off, would you?
Yeah, Mr. Philip Johnson, please?
This is Mark Rothko on the line.
I went to the restaurant last night, and let me tell you,
anyone who eats that kind of food for that kind of money
in that kind of joint will never look at a painting of mine.
No, I'm sending the money back
and I'm keeping the pictures.
Yeah, well, this is the way it goes.
Now, now, you are Mark Rothko.
Having money doesn't make you wealthy.
This is a day for the books.
- We'll have to… - You're fired.
Write down your address, I'll send you your final check.
You owe me an explanation.
No, I don't owe you anything.
Two years and you expect me to walk out, just like that?
Oh, you want a retirement party?
It's none of your business!
You're too god-damn needy, alright?
Since you're seven years old you've been looking for a home.
Well, this is not it, and I'm not your father.
Your father's dead, remember?
I'm sorry, but that's it.
Because I don't need an assistant.
Because you talk too much.
Because you have lousy taste.
Oh, because your life is out there!
You don't need to spend any more time with me.
You gotta find your own contemporaries,
make your own world, your own life.
You gotta get out there now, into the thick of it,
shake your fist at them, talk their ears off.
There were no galleries, no collecting,
because we had nothing to lose