Mark Rothko: An Emotional Odyssey Through Time and Color 

October 30, 2023

Art Collection + Fairs

In a breathtaking display of artistic mastery and emotional depth, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is set to captivate art enthusiasts from October 18, 2023, to April 2, 2024, with the first comprehensive retrospective of Mark Rothko's work in France. This monumental exhibition is a rare opportunity to delve into the world of a visionary artist who once said, 

"I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions."


 

Mark Rothko, Self Portrait, 1936. 

© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp, Paris, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Mark Rothko, Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea, 1944. 

© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp, Paris, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Mark Rothko's artistic journey, as meticulously portrayed in this exhibition, takes us on a profound exploration of human emotions and the evolution of his work. As we step into the gallery, we are greeted by intimate scenes and urban landscapes that dominated Rothko's early career, offering a glimpse into his fascination with the New York subway in the 1930s.

Mark Rothko, The Ochre (Ochre, Red on Red), 1954. 

© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp, Paris, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Mark Rothko, No. 14, 1960.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Helen Crocker Russell Fund purchase. © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko - Adagp, Paris, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Yet, it is Rothko's transition towards abstract expressionism in 1946 that truly defines his legacy. The exhibition unveils his Multi-forms, where chromatic masses hang in delicate equilibrium on the canvas. Over time, these forms evolve into the iconic rectangular shapes that are synonymous with Rothko's name today, characterized by a symphony of colors – yellow, red, ochre, orange, blue, and white.

Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton

The exhibition takes an extraordinary turn in 1958, delving into Rothko's commissioned wall paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. His decision to withhold these paintings created an artistic upheaval, and now, they are prominently displayed for all to witness. In 1960, the Phillips Collection dedicated its first "Rothko Room," a space designed in collaboration with the artist himself.

Photos Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton

Rothko's influence extended globally, with a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1961 that toured several European cities. In the 1960s, he embarked on notable new commissions, including the famed Rothko Chapel in Houston, which stands as a testament to his artistic vision.

Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton

The exhibition also dispels the notion of Rothko's work becoming solely muted and melancholic over time. While his later works exhibit darker tones, he never entirely abandons his vibrant palette, creating a rich and nuanced narrative. The last red painting left unfinished in his studio is a testament to his enduring exploration of color and emotion.

Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton

One of the most compelling aspects of this exhibition is the presentation of Rothko's work alongside Alberto Giacometti's sculptural figures, evoking the environment Rothko envisioned for a UNESCO commission that never materialized. The juxtaposition of these two giants in the art world creates a unique and immersive experience.

Photo Courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton

Mark Rothko's artistic legacy is a journey through the human psyche, a wordless dialogue with viewers that transcends conventional interpretation. This retrospective at the Fondation Louis Vuitton invites us to rediscover the multifaceted genius of Rothko, reinforcing his position as a true artistic luminary.

 

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