new-york

Mark Rothko, Black in Deep Red, 1957, oil on canvas, 69 3/8 × 53 3/4". © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko

Pace | 32 East 57th Street

Mark Rothko, Black in Deep Red, 1957, oil on canvas, 69 3/8 × 53 3/4". © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Mark Rothko

The story is almost too neat: Mark Rothko states that his paintings are about death, above all, and as he nears the end of his life, cut short in 1970 by his own hand, his palette grows darker and darker. Though part of his powerful narrative, this was not the only factor affecting his choice of color. For one thing, as demonstrated by the recent impressive show up at Pace—expertly lit and designed, with a border on the floor unobtrusively guarding our distance—darkness infused Rothko’s mature canvases from the 1950s on, even if just as ground to push forward his brightest compositions. For artists from Bruegel to Rembrandt to Goya to Matisse, black has been a potent pigment for experimenting with space and visibility. In the postwar US, this interest seemed to accelerate, with a group of artists employing pitchy strokes, among them Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Norman

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