San Francisco

Mark Rothko

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

The local talk about this traveling retrospective of Mark Rothko’s works on paper centered on the unfortunate restrictions placed on the works’ visibility by the show’s organizers, the Mark Rothko Foundation and the American Federation of Arts. Presumably, the disadvantages to public viewing were residual of the great care lavished on conservation. But the experience was, as one viewer put it, "like seeing a drive-in movie in the afternoon.” Stuck behind formidable shields of glass or Plexiglas, many of the pictures simply failed to appear, and others made what were at best tenuous showings within a gridlock of reflections. Such effects proved especially impassable for the late dark acrylic-and-ink washes. Surely there were other, better ways to protect and at the same time allow access to these great pictures.

As Elaine de Kooning said, “Rothko’s art supervises the clutter of daily life;

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