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Mark Rothko

The Wall Street Journal calls our Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950 exhibition “an enormously satisfying show.” 

Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950
On View February 1, 2013 – May 26, 2013

CMA celebrates one of the world’s most influential and best-known artists of the twentieth-century with the exhibition Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950. Featuring some 37 works, this exhibition includes paintings, watercolors and works on paper drawn largely from the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. By focusing on works less often explored, Mark Rothko shows how the artist was influenced by Surrealism, the universal significance of myth, and the transformative power of color.

Rothko, Untitled, 1947The years 1940 – 1950 were crucial in the development of Mark Rothko’s universally recognizable mature color-field paintings. Fueled by the anxieties of the late 1930s and the years of WWII, in the 1940s, Rothko’s figurative imagery became increasingly symbolic and dream-like. By 1947, Rothko and his artist colleagues and friends such as Adolph Gottlieb were eliminating all elements of the human figure from their work. As a consequence, nonobjective compositions of indeterminate shape and colors emerged and filled the picture plane. Rothko finally landed upon a new way of painting — using blocks of color which for him contained a “breath of life” he found lacking in most figurative painting of the time.

Mark Rothko The Decisive Decade 1940-1950
was organized by the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina, the Arkansas Art Center, the Denver Art Museum, and the Columbus Museum of Art. A catalogue, published by Rizzoli, with foreword by the artist’s son Christopher Rothko, is available in the Museum Store and in our online Museum Store.


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Rothko, Untitled, 1949Related Programs

Check our calendar for Rothko themed Learning to Look and Inside Story tours.

Color Fields: A Brief History from Rothko to Now
Thursday May 23, 2013, 7:00 PM
Come meet our new Associate Curator of Contemporary Art Tyler Cann and be part of his first public program here at CMA. What can a color mean? Highlighting select works from the Rothko exhibition, the CMA collection and beyond, this talk by Tyler Cann will follow some of the ways artists have invested color with aesthetic, philosophical and political significance in the last sixty years. No registration requested, free with admission.

Glyphs, Signs, and Myths
Thursday April 25, 2013, 7:00 PM
Join CMA Adjunct Curator of Folk Art Michael Hall as he discusses the relationship between Rothko and Primitivism, as related to The Decisive Decade paintings. This program is free with admission, no registration requested. Please call 614.629.0359 for more information.

Big Picture Lecture
From Classical Myth to Classic Rothko
Sunday, April 28, 2:00 PM
Richard Fletcher, a professor in the Department of Classics at The Ohio State University, will speak about Mark Rothko’s use of Classical Myths in his artwork during the 1940s. A reception follows the lecture. Admission to the program is free. This lecture is presented in collaboration with The OSU Humanities Institute.

“Red” Talk Back
Sunday, February 17, 2:00 PM
CMA and CATCO have coordinated their schedules so that a production of “Red” will run during the exhibition. This 2010 Tony Award-winning play celebrating the life and vision of artist Mark Rothko runs from February 13 – March 3. Buy your matinee tickets for the February 17 performance, then stay for the talk back program featuring CMA Curator Dominique H. Vasseur.  For details visit catco.org

Supporting Sponsor: Dedalus Foundation
Media Sponsor: Ohio Magazine
Sponsored by the Friends of Rothko, with lead gifts by:
Peggy Mativi and Donald W. Dick Bebe and John Finn Mr. and Mrs. Michael A. Weiss
Hotel Sponsor: Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel
Ongoing Support: Ohio Arts Council