Rothko : The Dark paintings at Pace Gallery

Mark Rothko at Pace Gallery
Mark Rothko at Pace Gallery

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.

Rothko at Pace
Rothko at Pace

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.

Rothko at Pace
Rothko at Pace

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.

Rothko at Pace. By far my favorite...
Rothko at Pace. By far my favorite…

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.

 

 

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