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  • Written by Damisola Sulaiman

MARK ROTHKO RETROSPECTIVE: PAINTINGS AS POIGNANT AS POETRY


Vue d'installation de l'exposition Mark Rothko, galerie 5, niveau 1, salle Seagram Murals Paris. © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp, Paris, 2023

Mark Rothko is best known for his abstract paintings that depict rectangular regions of color and is thought of by many as one of the great American artists of the 20th century. It has been over 20 years since his work has been exhibited in a retrospective in France. The Fondation Louis Vuitton has seized the opportunity to re-emphasize his influence and introduce his work to a new generation.


From 18th October 2023 to 2nd April 2024, the retrospective will bring together 115 works from the largest institutional collections and major private collections, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the artist’s family, and the Tate in London. His work will be shown in all spaces of the foundation in a chronological path tracing his entire career.


The exhibition starts in the 1930s, transporting visitors to a world of intimate scenes and urban landscapes. This was before Rothko shifted to his distinct abstract style. Then, leading to the mid-1940s, where the turning point is seen. In Multiforms, the viewer will be able to appreciate a lack of landscape or figures and a lean into geometric shapes and colors.


In the 1950s, his classic work emerged; the geometric shapes were swapped out for superimposed rectangular shapes in reds, ochres, oranges, and yellows, but also blue and white tones.


The exhibition also shows nine paintings from 1958 which were commissioned by the Four Seasons to decorate. Rothko kept the series instead then donated them to the Tate Gallery in 1969. The “Rothko Room” dedicated to the painter by the Phillips Collection in 1960 is also presented.


Despite the artist’s lean into darker tones and dull contrasts in the Black and Grey series, he never abandoned the bright color palette that many associate him with today. Several paintings from 1967 are in that style along with the very last red painting, which remained unfinished in his studio.


The exhibition allows for a re-contemplation of Rothko’s works today with the understanding of how the perception of abstract art has shifted in the public consciousness. Throughout his work life, one of the most asked questions is ‘What do Mark Rothko’s paintings mean?’, this exhibition provides the opportunity for new answers to emerge.





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