'Rice-Ko' Is What Happens When Artists Recreate Rothko Paintings Using Rice

And it's all a delicious homage to a 1950s art scandal.
Henry Hargreaves/Caitlin Levin

For four years now, artists Henry Hargreaves and Caitlin Levin have been making artworks inspired by the legendary Mark Rothko, but with one crucial distinction. They’re made of rice.

The project they’ve dubbed “Rice-Ko” is a lovely union of art and food that harkens back to a delicious art scandal. In 1958, the swanky Four Seasons Restaurant in New York’s Seagram Building commissioned Rothko to create 600 square feet of paintings to adorn its most exclusive room. It was the most prestigious public commission ever given to an Abstract Expressionist painter, The Guardian reported. Rothko accepted the offer, but deeply loathed the prospect of creating work only to be seen and enjoyed by the wealthy Manhattan elite.

After working for a year and a half to create 30 paintings, Rothko suddenly and quite inexplicably revoked the offer, giving back the money and refusing the paintings. Rothko’s Seagram murals are now some of his most beloved works ― soft, flesh-colored and yet hallucinatory, sensual and uneasy.

Hargreaves and Levin decided to pay tribute to both Rothko and the Four Seasons, which will close its doors on July 16, as well as the larger powers of food and art. The playful homage takes inspiration from the Four Seasons’ iconic menu, one of the first to introduce seasonal cooking to the mainstream. Dishes like sole, duck and burger are translated into abstract color swaths made of tiny, tiny rice grains that fade away before your eyes.

Hargreaves and Levin Rice-Ko
Cotton Candy with Candle
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