Mark Rothko, No. 7 (1964, National Gallery of Art)
Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel,
UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus
The truth is that, when you look at these paintings up close (for those unable to make it to the museum, there is an online slideshow), they are more complex than the term black-on-black describes. They are right in line with most of Rothko's abstract work, in that a black (in one case, brown) rectangle hovers over backgrounds of slightly different colors and, also like many other Rothkos, even more colors are masked underneath the uppermost layer of paint. In many cases, those lighter hues glow around the edge of the central rectangle, like a halo or the corona of sunlight at the edge of an eclipse. Spending some time sitting in the trapezoidal room at the top of the East Building made me recall that the focus of the Tenebrae service is, after all, darkness: the darkness into which Christ cast himself, offering himself up for a ruination to be compared with that of Jerusalem razed by its attackers.
Blake Gopnik, National Gallery exhibit challenges traditional view of Rothko's black paintings (Washington Post, March 14)
Bill O'Leary, Alfred Molina and Mark Rothko's Strokes of Genius (Washington Post, March 27)
In the Tower: Mark Rothko will be on view at the National Gallery of Art through January 2, 2011.