Art: A Certain Spell

"There is no such thing," Mark Rothko once said, "as good painting about nothing." Yet if there is a painter alive who appears to be painting nothing, it is Rothko. Line, subject, perspective—all are gone; says Rothko himself: "You have here nothing—but content."

Last week 54 of Rothko's paintings were on display at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art, showing 15 years of the development of a man who is one of the top half-dozen abstract painters in the U.S.—one who has created a personal idiom that pleases the initiated but to the others...

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