focuses on the late work of Mark Rothko (1903–70), especially
his works in series. At their heart are strategies of repetition
and variation on a theme, encapsulated in Rothko's statement that
'If a thing is worth doing once, it is worth doing over and over
again – exploring it, probing it, demanding by its repetition
that the public look at it.'
Such ideas had
already been integral to his colour field works of the 1950s. Throughout
the late 1950s and 1960s, however, they took on a new importance
as Rothko explored the concept of the series, which provided him
with a method of critical self-enquiry and as a way of investigating
the continuing possibilities of painting in an increasingly image-saturated
culture. The process emerged, in part, from various commissions
to create ambitious painterly environments. The first of these was
for the newly opened Seagram building on New York's Park Avenue.
Made in 1958–9, the Seagram murals never reached their original
destination, after Rothko decided that a private dining room was
an unsuitable environment to experience his paintings. Yet for much
of the next decade he was preoccupied with the murals' display,
and the intellectual and painterly questions underpinning their
Though he continued
to produce individual paintings and works on paper of great quality,
it was the series and commissions at the centre of this exhibition
that formed the cornerstones of his late work.
The Late Series is curated by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Curator,
with Kerryn Greenberg, Assistant Curator.
on Maroon Mural, Section 2 1959. Tate. Presented by the artist
through the American Federation of Arts 1969 © Kate Rothko
Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998
1958–9, National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of The Mark
Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986. © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher