Tragic and Timeless: The Art of Mark Rothko
May 24–September 14, 2014
Bringing together nine works by Mark Rothko, including four major paintings from Switzerland's Beyeler Foundation and an important painting from a private collection, Tragic and Timeless: The Art of Mark Rothko showcases the artist's entire oeuvre and celebrates the diversity of nearly 30 years of artistic output from this crucial figure in the American Abstract Expressionist movement.
The exhibition includes early Surrealist imagery by Rothko while Untitled, 1948 is emblematic of the artist's abstractions, known as "multiforms". Painted in a range of blue, yellow, orange and white shapes against a salmon-colored background, this work's importance is heightened since it is the last image that Rothko signed on the front of the canvas. The artist famously affirmed that his paintings should be "tragic and timeless"— an observation that inspired the exhibition title.
From around 1950, Rothko arrived at his signature style of luminous rectangular shapes hovering in space. The Saint Louis Art Museum's richly colored Red, Orange, Orange on Red represents a central area of tangerine orange bounded at the bottom by an area of acidic orange and at the top by a line of red. It will now be complemented by Blue and Gray, a picture with two rectangular forms, one in velvety blue and the other in a gray that hovers like mist, and the luminous Untitled (Red-Brown, Black, Green, Red). These three paintings, all dating from 1962, will showcase the intensity of Rothko's exploration of color.
Rothko's later work showed an increasing interest in darker, more solemn tones, perhaps reflecting his intimations of his own mortality. Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown), 1964, represents a sharp-edged rectangular field of black- brown and is complemented by two late 1969 acrylics from the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Tragic and Timeless: The Art of Mark Rothko is curated by Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art.