Getting close for the details on a Rothko

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When I was at MoMA for the Picabia show the other day, I also wandered around the other floors to see the permanent collection. I’ve always liked Mark Rothko’s work, and had an opportunity recently to see a big Rothko show at Pace Gallery last fall, but there was something about this one at MoMA that really pulled me in. What was nice was that I had a chance to get up close and see the brushwork clearly without any interference from other museum visitors (or from the security guard – although I was at a safe distance, so he had nothing to worry about). There’s a big difference between seeing a Rothko from afar and seeing one up close.

painting by Mark Rothko with a close-up detail

This particular painting is titled “No. 10,” from 1950, and is an oil on canvas. From a distance, the painted rectangles seem to float above the background surface, but up close one can see how the paint is applied in a way that the edges kind of bleed into each other – it feels much more flat up close.

I think another thing I liked about this particular Rothko was – compared to most Rothkos where the floating rectangles are relatively even, this one’s bottom white rectangle seems to have a chunk torn out of the upper right side of it. Whereas the rest of the canvas has the rectangles floating out close to the edge of the canvas, this open space reveals much more of the background … you can see two more detailed views of this area in the images below.

two detail views of Mark Rothko No. 10 at MoMA

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