Rothko coming to the Denver Art Museum

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Thanks to TheatreWorks, the artist Mark Rothko has been on a lot of minds lately.

Its production of the 2009 play Red was simple but powerful. I had the pleasure of seeing a show (and, humblebrag, to lead an audience talkback afterward) and it was a lovely look at the decisions an artist must make — from formal elements like what to add to a painting — to personal decisions, like one Rothko wrestled with following a lucrative commission.

Hierarchical Birds, 1944, oil paint on canvas
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • "Hierarchical Birds," 1944, oil paint on canvas

Red fared well with our theater critic Todd Wallinger, too. He wrote that each of the arguments Rothko aired with his assistant Ken "landed like a punch in the gut."

So it's perfect timing to learn that the Denver Art Museum will host a Rothko exhibit this June. Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s is a 28-piece show that showcases Rothko's most formative decade with some works that, according to the DAM, have rarely been seen.

As you can see from the image above, it doesn't look much like the Rothko we know. Unlike the "classical" Rothkos, there are figures in place of bright color blocks. But that was Rothko's thing in those days; he was a devoted student of various myths, the Bible and Friedrich Nietzsche.

In addition, the DAM will show works by Rothko's contemporaries: Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock.

Figure to Field entry will be included in museum admission.

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