The other day in the cold gray blah that New York can become at a moment’s notice, we took a walk over to the galleries in the west 20’s to take in the Rothko exhibit at the Pace Gallery.
We all have mind’s eye images of what a Rothko looks like: 2 or 3 big planes of rich saturated colors on larger fields of color with ghost colors appearing and receding as if they have a life all their own. One usually thinks of vivid colors like reds, yellows, blues floating on deeper shades so I was unprepared to walk into a gallery with Rothkos so deep, dark and haunting that I stood transfixed.
The first thing I noticed was his palette. Gone were the vivid colors replaced by shades of red, green, brown and oxblood all bathed under a layer of grey, as if smoke engulfed them and left them with a thin veneer of shadow. One painting in particular was a study in black and its various shades. That was the one painting we were told not to photograph, and it was the most mysterious of them all.
It’s a large show that curiously reflects this strange time we find ourselves in. They certainly are a metaphor for my mood. Despite the darkness of the canvasses there is a sense of joy and celebration. These paintings from 1968 are examples of Rothko at his apex and an essential stop on the gallery tour.