After last year´s Bruegel the Kunsthistorisches Museum offers the next exceptional exhibition: For the first time in Austria Mark Rothko´s paintings are extensively shown.
Of course there are quite some of his significant and well-known pieces: glowing, floating colours that – in a manner of speaking – emanate a metaphysical oscillation. It happens only very rarely that museum visitors spend such a long time in the exhibition halls; it doesn´t really matter which condition one brings to the museum, Rothko leads one back to the essential, the universal. Like few other artists, though, he runs the risk of the criticism by a public that does not really appreciate art, that one could do such paintings oneself. (At least, that´s the impression the comments beneath some newspaper articles leave behind. Maybe it would be better not to read them, anyway.) But, well, one can´t. From the distance the paintings might appear like simple colour fields. But on approaching one notices the many, nearly transparent layers of colour, structures, hazinesses and movement. Which also is one of the reasons why Mark Rothko´s paintings cannot be satisfactorily reproduced in catalogues. To cite Rothko himself: „A painting is not the image of an experience – a painting is an experience.“ (Sorry, though. I couldn´t find the original quotation, so I just retranslated it from the German version.)
The first room of the chronologically built up exhibition logically concerns Rothko´s early work. It is really surprising how during a relatively short period he moved from rather muddy dies and the well-known art movements of the first half of the 20th century to abstraction and his signature colours.
As already mentioned, one must see for oneself.
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
1: Mark Rothko (1903-1970) No. 2, 1947, Öl auf Leinwand, 145,4 × 122,4 cm, © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Bildrecht, Wien, 2019 © Foto: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
2: Mark Rothko (1903-1970) No. 16 (Red, White and Brown), 1957, Öl auf Leinwand
252,2 × 207 cm © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Bildrecht, Wien, 2019 © Foto: Kunstmuseum Basel
3: Ausstellungsansicht © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Bildrecht, Wien, 2019, Foto: KHM-Museumsverband