Last Chance To See: Rothko @ Tate Modern

By Londonist Last edited 119 months ago
Last Chance To See: Rothko @ Tate Modern

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Mark Rothko Mural for End Wall (Untitled) [Seagram Mural] 1959 National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of the Mark Rothko Foundation Inc.
Rothko: the popular end of art that Brian Sewell has made a career out of hating. Huge flat slabs of colour, which seemingly lend themselves well to the ignoranti's cries of 'a child could have done it', and yet be popularist enough to be very middle-management-what-shop-at-ikea friendly. Even if the much smaller interior design TV programme friendly reproductions are the aesthetic equivalent of getting a 'hooked on classics' album, size is important. Even if he can attract ire from the more snobbish elements of contempory art here's a clue, he's popular because he's good.

A lot has been written about the meaning behind these huge paintings. They describe so well the flat serene oppressive totality of depression - a view that was borne out when, as part of The Big Arts week, a bunch of 9 year olds from Poplar were shown some Rothko and their immediate emotional reaction was that it made them feel sad.

While this show has got mixed reviews, for any fan it is a must. Not only do you get to see a selection of his later work but also see his precursor studies. And the backlit photographs which show how the secretive Rothko worked are fascinating. The layer over layer of paint which went into these seemingly simple paintings emerge with the light.

It could have been done better, but we still think if you love, or even just like, his work, you will be kicking yourself if you don't actually make this one. After all this is the first major exhibition of his work in 20 years. You've got a week left to see it.

By Oliver Gili

Rothko at Tate Modern closes on 1 February. Visiting and ticket information is online.

Last Updated 26 January 2009