Palazzo delle Esposizioni Opens Mark Rothko Exhibition Curated By Oliver Wick

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Palazzo delle Esposizioni Opens Mark Rothko Exhibition Curated By Oliver Wick
Mark Rothko, Entrance to Subway, 1938, Oil on canvas, cm 86,4x117,5- Collection, Kate Rothko Prizel.

ROME, ITALY.- The major solo exhibitions devoted to this American painter of Russian origin in Italy have been few and far between. There was the retrospective, organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York while he was still alive, which came to the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome in 1962; and the commemorative retrospective held at Ca’ Pesaro in the ambit of the 1970 Venice Biennale, immediately after the artist’s tragic death.

On 15 May 2007, Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) was sold for 72.8 million US dollars at Sotheby’s in New York to a private buyer, whose name was not revealed, and this will probably make it much harder to obtain the artist’s works on loan for temporary exhibitions.

Hence, this Mark Rothko retrospective curated by Oliver Wick and produced by the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo and Arthemisia, will give visitors a unique opportunity to see a vast selection of works by one of the greatest artists of the last century.

Rothko was generally known as an Abstract Expressionist, but he often refused to be identified as such. The exhibition aims to provide an overall picture of his production, while remaining faithful to his constant preoccupation with presenting his work in groups of carefully chosen paintings to increase their visual impact. Thus, the paintings for the exhibition were selected and the layout was determined according to precise criteria. There are about seventy paintings all told, as well as an important group of works on paper that illustrate specific aspects of each period in his career.

Where Rothko’s early works are concerned, the exhibition focuses on the relatively small paintings that were prepared with chalk, the use of which tends to endow the colour with the delicate tones and thin consistency associated with the fresco. The influence of fifteenth-century Italian art, and Fra’ Angelico in particular, is evident in these pictures.

The tradition of the Italian Renaissance, and above all its frescoes, had a remarkable influence on the series of mural commissions pertaining to Rothko’s classic period. In fact, he explored its possibilities also in his Surrealist works, in which he gradually perfected the technique of applying extremely thin layers of colour, or washes.

Alongside a selection of his Multiforms, which are characterized by patches of colour and an original plastic-spatial effect, and were painted at the end of the first stage of his career, one can admire some of his subsequent paintings, with their ever-larger coloured rectangular fields.

The ‘classic’ Rothko, which consists in his more mature works made in the Fifties on large canvases, represents his most fascinating and celebrated period of activity, due to the remarkable quality of the colours, and to the originality and intensity of his compositions. These include the corpus of paintings from the room devoted to the artist at the 1958 Venice Biennale, where his art was first appreciated in Europe, and various works that originally belonged to Italian collections. While the Black-form paintings with their single dark square shapes, which he painted from 1960 on, evoke Rothko’s strong desire to create a spiritual space.

The exhibition ends with the artist’s last works, the Black on Gray paintings, a group that marks the climax of an oeuvre that steadily became more austere and moved towards new artistic horizons that were in direct relationship with the viewer. The works on display have been lent by leading international museums: Fondation Beyeler, Basel; Tate, London; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin; National Gallery of Art, Washington; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv.

Other works are on loan from private collections, including the important corpus belonging to Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel, without whom this exhibition could not have been realized.

Catalogue Skira. In addition to the catalogue, to celebrate this important exhibition, Skira will also publish the Italian version of “The reality’s artist”, a publication made possible by his son Christopher, in which, Rothko explains his own personal philosophies and artistic realties.

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