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30 Oct 2017

Mark Rothko: Reflection

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reviewed by Franklin Einspruch

The MFA has mounted a pleasurable if not groundbreaking Rothko show, dominated by the middle-period multiforms and the mature color-field works. They are on loan from the National Gallery of Art, and thus a welcome opportunity for us New Englanders to spend some time with the D.C. Rothkos.

"Reflection" has a curious inclusion, a diminutive and bonkers self-portrait from 1938. The artist looks in on a surrealist interior with an undersized woman and an even more undersized easel. He was trying, and failing, to be de Chirico. Its pairing with the MFA's presumed self-portrait of Rembrandt doesn't flatter Rothko.

But the mature works seem all the more mature for it. The multiforms are striking, especially No. 9 from 1948, in which radiant puzzle pieces assemble into a sultry composition of orange and vermilion. This segues naturally to one of the first color-fields from '49, a work made prior to the artist's growing monomania about red and black and thus retaining some joy.

Exhibition Mark Rothko: Reflection link
Start date 24 Sep 2017
End date 01 Jul 2018
Presenter Museum of Fine Arts, Boston link
Venue 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, USA map
Image Mark Rothko, No. 9, 1948, oil and mixed media on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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