Created more than five centuries apart, an imperial Chinese porcelain dish and a painting by Mark Rothko—unexpectedly brought together in visual dialogue—reveal the immensity of the color red. The richly layered tonalities of both the porcelain dish and the oil and acrylic painting were achieved in dramatically different ways, but they uncannily echo each other.
Chinese monochrome porcelains are among the greatest achievements in ceramics, and no color is more coveted than the luscious copper-red glaze perfected during the Xuande (1426–35) reign. As seen in this dish, made around 1430, the potters masterfully controlled copper—the most difficult of all glaze colorants—to achieve the color and velvety texture of crushed raspberries. In 1959, Rothko (1903–1970) layered red pigments in daring ways, achieving depth and variations that make his flat canvas seem palpable. In both works, the unstable, subtly shifting hues touch our imagination, reminding us that color not only results from materials and processes but also transcends time and place.
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