I’ve spoken briefly about the darker Rothko paintings before – and of the belief that many people hold that it is really the brightest of the Rothko’s paintings that reflect his ongoing bouts with depression while the darker moodier works are usually created in his happier times. Between you and me, I’m a little tired of worrying about Rothko’s mental health, especially as we continue to have amazing painting to view and ponder other questions.
The “Black Paintings” were Never sold or exhibited during his lifetime, these little-known works were painted after his 1961 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Many artists will speak of a let down or general malaise after a large show in which they have been engaged at a high level over a long period of time – this could very well have been the case for MR.
During this time Rothko was starting to think serially and had begun to find individual paintings as inadequate and episodic. This approach for him would lead to great success for what would later be known as the Rothko chapel, he produced fourteen large paintings and four alternates, many of them (really, almost all of them) direct successors to the black paintings of 1964.
This is the first exhibition to focus on the black paintings.