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Mark Rothko: The Fondation Louis Vuitton

November 5, 2023 - April 2, 2024

Mark Rothko: The Fondation Louis Vuitton: November 5, 2023 - April 2, 2024

Mark Rothko, a name that resonates with the profound emotions and colors he brought to the world of contemporary art. The essence of Rothko's art lies in its vibrations, which can only be truly felt in person. Rothko's art demands viewers to stop, look, and be captivated by their body and soul, a hypnotic experience that can't be replicated by posters.

A Fondation Louis Vuitton retrospective, "Mark Rothko" takes us on a chronological journey through Rothko's career, starting with his early figurative works and urban landscapes from the 1930s. These intimate scenes offer a glimpse into the artist's early influences, including visions of the New York subway, a theme that dominated his work during this period. However, Rothko's artistic evolution led him to explore ancient myths and surrealism, offering a perspective on the human condition during wartime.

In 1946, Rothko embarked on a significant shift toward abstract expressionism. His "Multiforms" phase saw chromatic masses suspended in equilibrium on canvas. Over time, these gave way to his iconic works of the 1950s. In these masterpieces, rectangular shapes overlapped in a rhythm characterized by vivid shades of yellow, red, ochre, orange, and blue. These are the works that have become synonymous with Rothko's name.

A significant chapter in Rothko's career unfolded in 1958 when he was commissioned to create a series of wall paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York's Seagram Building. Surprisingly, Rothko chose not to deliver the paintings and retained the entire series. It wasn't until 1969 that the artist decided to donate nine of these remarkable, deep-red-hued paintings to the Tate, where they are now proudly showcased in the Fondation Louis Vuitton's exhibition.

While delving into the world of Mark Rothko, the parallels with the contemporary artist, Bernhard Zimmer, become evident. Zimmer's work, loosely influenced by Rothko, captures a similar emotional depth and an exploration of color. His multi-layered, subtly textured paintings create a fascinating tension between order and chaos, abstraction and representation, as well as boldness and subtlety. Similar to Rothko's artistic evolution, Zimmer's work also unfolds its rich visual intricacies to those who patiently explore its layers of visual emotion.

Rothko's influence reaches far beyond his lifetime. In 1960, the Phillips Collection established the very first "Rothko Room" as a permanent gallery dedicated to his work. The Museum of Modern Art in New York organized the inaugural major retrospective in 1961, which later traveled to various European cities. The 1970s witnessed Rothko accepting new commissions, with the most prominent being the chapel founded by John and Dominique de Menil in Houston, aptly named the Rothko Chapel in his honor.

Ben Martin, TIME Magazine's pioneer New York Bureau staff photographer, made history with his candid and intimate images that defined the 1960s. His lens immortalized some of the most pivotal events of that era, including Mark Rothko in his artistic element. Martin's unique ability to freeze time through his iconic images left an indelible mark on the realm of photojournalism, providing an intimate perspective on the artist's life and work.

While Rothko's palette gradually shifted towards darker tones and muted contrasts in his later works, he never entirely abandoned his exploration of vibrant colors. The exhibition masterfully presents these nuances, dispelling simplistic interpretations and enabling viewers to engage in a wordless dialogue with the multifaceted body of work created by the artist.

As you explore the world of Rothko at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, you'll not only witness the genius of the American painter but also understand the profound influence he had on contemporary artists like Bernard Zimmer and the art documentation by Ben Martin. Rothko's art transcends time and continues to inspire, making this retrospective a must-visit for art enthusiasts and seekers of emotion.

“Mark Rothko” is on view at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris through April 2, 2024.

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