Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rothko at MOCA

Installation View: Rothko at MOCA

The recent exhibition of Mark Rothko's work by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art at their Pacific Design Center satellite space was both profound and encouraging. The paintings, many originally from the Panza Collection outside Milan, were crisply installed in the high ceilinged space and gently lit.

In one of the essays collected in the posthumous volume "The Artist's Reality", Mark Rothko expressed his hope that a democratically educated populace "through increased facilities for the seeing and practice and discussion of art, will actively and genuinely be moved by the creations of their contemporaries."

I think that Rothko would appreciate the crowd that gathered to reflect upon his paintings. A group that took time to step away from an increasingly murky politcal reality to contemplate something deeper, richer and more lasting. Rothko wrote that "society profits most not when art at its highest applauds its appearances, but when it pictures its society's highest aspirations. The Renaissance was an age of murder. Greek freedom was based on slavery."

Installation View: Rothko at MOCA

Accompanying the Rothko paintings on the final weekend of the exhibition was a sound work by Steve Roden entitled "dark over light earth". Steve Roden's sound piece enlisted violinist Jacob Danzinger and added to the chapel-like feel of the space. While I was there, gallery viewers spoke in hushed tones. There was a spirit of contemplation in the room. I wished that the moment could go on forever, that we all could soak into the paintings - breaking the space between object and viewer.

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