Rothko Exhibition

January 25th, 2009

Rothko saying

I finally made it to the Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern last week. Its in its final week and closes on the 1st of Feb. Being a huge Rothko fan, I couldn’t give up this opportunity to see more of his work in the flesh. The exhibition at the Tate is focused on his later works, which stemmed from his Seagram Murals series. This series was initially commissioned to be hung in a dining room at the iconic modernist building, Seagrams Building, built by Mies Van der Rohe in New York. Rothko famously withdrew from the commission after working on the paintings citing the unsuitability of the site for his paintings, allowing a much wider audience to discover his works.

The exhibition consisted of 9 rooms, with the largest room housing the Seagram Murals, bringing together Tate’s own collection, with Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The other significant collection was the Black collection and his later works Brown and Gray works on paper.

I made it a point on not reading any reviews or researching about Rothko before going to the exhibition. I wanted to experience it ’pure’ as it were. And it did not disappoint! It was visceral, absolutely absorbing and undeniably primal. What was really paradoxical, was that his large paintings were very, very intimate rather than distant. The subtlety of his strokes, mastery of colour and layers is amazing. Sitting and staring intently at his creations reveals so many different imagery. I was also happy to discover his Black series, which as the name suggest, was painted using the black pallet. Of course its not as dull as pure black, its a Rothko, meaning that even using a single hue, he can create depth and visual interest in them. They are extremely powerful as a series and probably my second favourite Rothko series after the Seagrams Murals.

As a whole, the exhibition was extraordinary. I only wished there were less people, the crowds did make it difficult to truly enjoy his works. That’s why i love sitting in the Rothko room at the Tate, usually its empty and fill with regulars rather than passing visitors. You’re generally find me there, having a quiet sit.

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