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Blip.058: Some Links About Rothko
A new show is coming to the National Gallery.
Later in the month, there’s a new Mark Rothko show opening at the National Gallery of Art here in DC. The National Gallery is one of my favorite places in the city. The permanent collection is terrific and the shows they have are very diverse. Sometimes they’re accessible and familiar, like Gordon Parks: The New Tide or Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings. Other shows, like Philip Guston Now or Rachel Whiteread I find very challenging, which I think is one of the great things about art. It’s like listening to Miles Davis or John Coltrane—some of it, I get and I can really enjoy. But when they go off-book and just start riffing, I tend to get lost because I just don’t have the same vernacular.
I’ve been looking forward to this new Rothko show since my friend Michelle told me about it months ago. It features more than 100 of his paintings on paper (he made more than 1000), and many of them have never been shown before. Every time I visit the National Gallery, I make it a point to go sit in the “Rothko Room” in the East Building Tower, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I love the deceptive simplicity of his process and how he wanted viewers to have some sort of emotional reaction to the pieces. In fact, in 1954 Rothko asked that his largest pictures be installed “so that they must be first encountered at close quarters, so that the first experience is to be within the picture.” There’s also a terrific set-up before you get to Rothko in that you have to pass through Barnett Newman’s masterpiece The Stations of the Cross. The gallery released a fascinating podcast talking about his pieces and their significance.
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