Click to skip to site content
Quantum Listening: The Silence of Mark Rothko screening

Still from The Silence of Mark Rothko, 2014. Image courtesy of Icarus Films.

Quantum Listening: The Silence of Mark Rothko screening


Inspired by composer Pauline Oliveros’ manifesto for listening as activism, Quantum Listening explores the everyday phenomena of the sonic as a realm of healing and radical transformation rooted in musicianship. Through open conversations, screenings, and listening sessions, the series acts as a soundboard that mixes our dialogues and amplifies our curiosities about the world around us. Screened in conjunction with MOCA Permanent Collection exhibition Reverberations, which includes several of Rothko’s color field paintings, MOCA presents a screening of The Silence of Mark Rothko.

Painter Mark Rothko is best known for imposing canvasses that eschew representation in favor of pure color and texture—using them to express fundamental human emotions. The film includes thoughtful, engaging commentary from experts including Rothko's biographer, Annie Cohen-Solal, and conservator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro (who speculates on whether splotches of paint on the studio floor may have been Rothko's). Fittingly though, for a film about a painter whose greatest works evoke both silence and emotion, The Silence of Mark Rothko lingers on paintings and locations - using architectural shots, interiors and streetscapes, to link Rothko's paintings to the world he inhabited.

Featuring works from his early mythological period, his classic color field paintings, his later Black on Grey pieces, and the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the film is a unique artistic biography that provides a heightened level of intimacy and familiarity with its subject's work through carefully chosen visuals and interviews. Interspersed throughout are readings from the painter's writings by his son, Christopher —passages that illuminate and bring immediacy to Rothko's work and philosophy.

This program is organized by Justen Leroy, Director of Public Programs and Community Outreach, with Alitzah Oros, Public Programming Associate, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.