Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mark Rothko at the Arkansas Art Center

The exhibition Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950 made its closest approach to DFW by landing at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock. So a friend and I hopped in a car and drove 5-hours up and 5-hours back in order to see paintings from the decade during which Rothko's style transitioned from surrealist figuration to the rectangle-based abstraction by which he is most widely known.

The highpoint of the exhibition for both me and my friend was Untitled, 1949 representing the transition's completion and rightfully placed in the exhibit's final gallery.

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1949. On loan to the exhibition from the National Gallery of Art.
From across the room, its brilliant, luminous colors draw you in. But when you stand within 18 inches of it - as Rothko wanted you to do - every brush stroke of the large central area sparkles deep blue and the entire dark region warmly embraces you. At the same time your eyes play vertically over the spectrum of colors from white to yellow, orange, red, blue, black, and green. The soft edge work between the colored regions lightens the overall effect. It's a giddy sensation that made me smile.

I commented on the exhibition catalog this past June. While in Little Rock I was able to purchase a copy of the catalog signed by Rothko's son, Christopher Rothko, who wrote one of its essays.

[Update 26 Jan 2014] In the exhibit catalog, No. 3, 1947 is shown in a horizontal orientation (pg 115). But in David Anfam's  Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas the same painting is shown in a vertical orientation (pg 266).

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