For Foodies

Mark Rice-Ko: Where Food and Rothko Meet In Delicious Harmony

  • Chef/stylist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves do an interpretation of Mark Rothko's paintings using colored rice. Left, Levin's design, right, the original painting titled White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) by Mark Rothko as seen at Sotheby's auction house in New York.
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    Chef/stylist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves do an interpretation of Mark Rothko's paintings using colored rice. Left, Levin's design, right, the original painting titled White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) by Mark Rothko as seen at Sotheby's auction house in New York.
    Henry Hargreaves/Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images
  • One of Levin's greatest challenge is mixing food colors to match Rothko's original work. This image displays the food color palette used to dye the rice.
    Hide caption
    One of Levin's greatest challenge is mixing food colors to match Rothko's original work. This image displays the food color palette used to dye the rice.
    Henry Hargreaves
  • Getting the edges to feather as seen in Rothko's original work was a challenge for Levin.
    Hide caption
    Getting the edges to feather as seen in Rothko's original work was a challenge for Levin.
    Henry Hargreaves
  • Levin worked on a project about gradient food dye using several kinds of foods like bananas and rice. It is during this time where she and photographer Henry Hargreaves came up with the idea of doing an interpretation of some of Mark Rothko's paintings using rice.
    Hide caption
    Levin worked on a project about gradient food dye using several kinds of foods like bananas and rice. It is during this time where she and photographer Henry Hargreaves came up with the idea of doing an interpretation of some of Mark Rothko's paintings using rice.
    Henry Hargreaves
  • It took Levin and Hargreaves anywhere between 2 to 3 hours to complete each piece of rice art.
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    It took Levin and Hargreaves anywhere between 2 to 3 hours to complete each piece of rice art.
    Henry Hargreaves
  • Molds were used to shape the different sized rectangles and to keep separate the colored rice.
    Hide caption
    Molds were used to shape the different sized rectangles and to keep separate the colored rice.
    Henry Hargreaves
  • The outcome of her work: Levin now owns many Ziploc bags filled with colored rice, about two 25 pound bags, which she plans to use for cooking meals with friends.
    Hide caption
    The outcome of her work: Levin now owns many Ziploc bags filled with colored rice, about two 25 pound bags, which she plans to use for cooking meals with friends.
    Henry Hargreaves

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Back in 1958, when Mark Rothko was commissioned to do a series of murals for The Four Seasons restaurant in New York — a place he believed was "where the richest bastards in New York will come to feed and show off" — his acceptance of the assignment was subversive at best. He hoped his art would "ruin the appetite of every son of a [beep] who ever eats in that room," according to a Harper's magazine article, "Mark Rothko: Portrait Of The Artist As An Angry Man."

His distaste for the social elite led to a series of paintings that continue to captivate art enthusiasts of different backgrounds, tastes and generations. His painting, Orange, Red, Yellow 1961, sold on May 8 this year for $86.9 million at Christie's.

Rothko eventually abandoned The Four Seasons project. Instead, he gave some of the pieces to the Tate Modern museum in 1969, just before committing suicide.

"We do these projects out of love for creating beautiful or interesting work out of a medium that is unexpected," Levin says. i i

"We do these projects out of love for creating beautiful or interesting work out of a medium that is unexpected," Levin says. Henry Hargreaves hide caption

itoggle caption Henry Hargreaves
"We do these projects out of love for creating beautiful or interesting work out of a medium that is unexpected," Levin says.

"We do these projects out of love for creating beautiful or interesting work out of a medium that is unexpected," Levin says.

Henry Hargreaves

But the murals that were meant to ruin the appetite of wealthy patrons inspired chef/stylist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves to interpret Rothko's collection using rice.

"We had been doing a project about gradient food dye using several kinds of food like bananas, bread and rice and we thought, how about using rice to recreate Rothko's paintings?" says Levin. Although dyeing rice is time consuming, Levin said it is an easier medium to work with than other foods when recreating the depth of color found in Rothko's pieces.

After coloring, styling and photographing the rice, chef and food stylist Caitlin Levin made coconut rice. "It taste the same," she says.

After coloring, styling and photographing the rice, chef and food stylist Caitlin Levin made coconut rice. "It taste the same," she says. Henry Hargreaves hide caption

itoggle caption Henry Hargreaves

This collaboration between Hargreaves and Levin took three days to complete, each piece taking two to three hours. Levin said her two greatest challenges were mixing the food colors to match Rothko's original work and to feather the edges of the rice art as seen on the paintings.

After Mark Rice-Ko was completed, the colorful rice faced a new fate, "We made coconut rice with it. It turned an Army green color but it tastes the same," Levin says of the dyed leftovers.

Check out the slide show above to view more of Levin/Hargreaves' rice art.

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