Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Mark Rothko at Tate Modern

Untitled, Black on Maroon, Maroon on Orange
(click to enlarge)

Rothko in his East Hampton studio, 1964
(click to enlarge)

For something with a little difference from our usual Friday night antics, Ross & I decided to get a dose of culture. We had been meaning to go to the Rothko exhibition for some months, and as it was due to close in about a week, the time seemed right to pull finger.

The exhibition focused on the body of work from his last 8 years, a period in which he was consumed with the strategy of repetition and variation. This quote encapsulates the strategy at the heart of his work throughout that period:

'If a thing is worth doing once, it is worth doing over and over again - exploring it, probing it, demanding by its repetition that the public look at it.'

It was a great show, and fantastic to be a part of it (I tried to pull off a few self portraits in front of the pieces that were my favorites when the security guards were distracted, but without joy).

There was an awesome section of the show where they delved deeply into the techniques Rothko used. This was done by photographing some of his works with ultraviolet light. This technique helps highlight the multi-layered application of his strokes, making the 'invisible' visible. It was fascinating.

My only criticism was the lighting of the show on the whole. I understand these large pieces with subtle colour change and brush work are very hard to light, but out of the 9 rooms of work, only about 2 were lit satisfactorily.

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