Tate Modern to Open the Late Works of Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
The first major exhibition dedicated to the late works of Mark Rothko (1903-1970), one of America’s most important and iconic post-war painters, will open at Tate Modern this September. Focusing on the final part of his career between 1958 and 1970, the exhibition will comprise around 50 works, including paintings and works on paper. On view 26 September 2008 through 1 February 2009.
Bringing together an exceptional group of 15 Seagram murals, the exhibition will offer an unprecedented opportunity to experience this seminal body of work. For the first time in their history the nine Tate Seagram murals (known as the ‘Rothko room’) will be joined by a selection of related Seagram paintings from the collections of the Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Japan, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It will be the first time the Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art will have lent their works to an international exhibition since they joined its collection in the late 1980s.
The Seagram murals will be shown alongside other landmark series of Rothko’s paintings, including five Black-Form paintings (1964), a group of large-scale Brown on Gray works on paper (1969), and examples from his last series Black on Gray, made in 1969–70.
Commissioned in 1958 the Seagram murals were intended to adorn the exclusive Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan’s newly built Seagram building, designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Rothko constructed a scaffold in his studio to create a replica space of the restaurant to work in. Though the original commission was meant to encompass only seven paintings, Rothko eventually painted 30 canvases.
The bright and intense colours of his earlier paintings made way to maroon, dark red and black, and Rothko soon realised that the brooding character of his latest creations required a very different environment to the one they had been commissioned for. Rothko saw the Seagram paintings as objects of contemplation, demanding the viewer’s complete absorption. He made reference to Michelangelo’s works in the Laurentian Library in Florence, with its deliberately oppressive atmosphere, commenting that Michelangelo ‘achieved just the kind of feeling I’m after – he makes the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up’. He took the decision to withdraw from the restaurant commission.
Shortly before his death in 1970, Rothko presented nine Seagram paintings to the Tate Gallery, citing his deep affection for the Collection, especially for JMW Turner. Displayed in keeping with the artist’s wishes as one coherent environment, the subtlety of the layered surfaces slowly emerges, revealing their solemn and meditative character.
Rothko is curated by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in association with Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art and will travel to Japan in spring 2009. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue which includes essays from leading international critics.
Tate Modern is the national gallery of international modern art. Located in London, it is one of the family of four Tate galleries which display selections from the Tate Collection. The Collection comprises the national collection of British art from the year 1500 to the present day, and of international modern art. The other three galleries are Tate Britain, also in London, Tate Liverpool, in the north-west, and Tate St Ives, in Cornwall, in the south-west. The entire Tate Collection is available online.
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