Abstract Expressionist Sunday, Part I: More about the Rothko Room

Sunday 7 May 2006

I mentioned the Rothko room at Tate Modern last week, saying it had been left as before. It turns out this is not exactly true: the entire thing has been reinstalled (I thought they’d just closed off a door), as explained here:
In the dimness the paintings appear at first fuzzy, and move inside themselves in eerie stealth: dark pillars shimmer, apertures seem to slide open, shadowed doorways gape, giving on to depthless interiors. Gradually, as the eye adjusts to the space’s greyish lighting – itself a kind of masterwork – the colours seep up through the canvas like new blood through a bandage in which old blood has already dried.

I had wondered about the title card at the Tate explaining that these paintings were originally commissioned to decorate(!) The Four Seasons restaurant. Rothko couldn’t be serious, could he? The restaurant couldn’t be, could they?
“I accepted this assignment as a challenge, with strictly malicious intentions. I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room. If the restaurant would refuse to put up my murals, that would be the ultimate compliment.”