London – Mark Rothko: “1968: Clearing Away” at Pace Through November 13th, 2021

November 4th, 2021

Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968), via Pace
Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968), via Pace

Marking the first exhibition at its new London gallery, Pace has brought out a striking body of works by Mark Rothko, focusing in particular on the artist’s output during the final years of his life, specifically smaller works on paper that have rarely been seen in public, and which will serve as the first dedicated to the artist’s paper-based practice

Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968), via Pace
Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968), via Pace

1968: Clearing Away brings together key paintings from Rothko’s renowned body of work made in the late 1960s—a significant and prolific period in the artist’s life. In the wake of a particularly difficult bout of ill health and a tumultuous time in his personal life, Rothko was forced to reduce the scale of his practice from his signature monumental canvas to more intimately sized paper. The result are a series of intimately scaled pieces, continuing his rich exploration of contrasting bands of color, and his interpretation of space as a series of close, dense relations. Using these deep fields of color, Rokthko’s hypnotic end result takes on a striking contrast to his monumental and better-known canvases, here turning the works into moments of quiet solitude and proximity.

Mark Rothko, 1968 Clearing Away (Installation View), via Pace

Mark Rothko, 1968: Clearing Away (Installation View), via Pace

The comparatively small scale of these works allows viewers an intimate encounter, fulfilling Rothko’s desire to collapse boundaries between artist and viewer. Rothko playfully suggested that the optimal distance from which to engage with these works was 18 inches away, mirroring his own proximity to the paintings as he made them.  Rarely is Rothko’s work explored on this scale, and the result is quite striking, an experience of the artist’s color and sense of space as a personal, solitary moment. Rather than exploring composition as a grand experience of looking, here one is attracted to a space that transforms the air around it into a chapel of its own.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968), via Pace
Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968), via Pace

The exhibition offers viewers a rare glimpse into the artist’s more spontaneous practice as he experimented with color and medium, unencumbered by the demands of large-scale canvases. It closes November 13th.

– D. Crehaan

Read more:
Mark Rothko 1968: Clearing Away [Exhibition Site]