View of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas (photo by Hickey-Robertson, courtesy of the Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel)
John Seed writes about the trend toward "slow looking" he observed recently at the exhibition Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park at the Orange County Museum of Art and traces its roots to the Rothko Chapel commission.
Seed writes that at the Diebenkorn show he had "noticed that the galleries were unusually hushed, and that people were taking their time, lingering in front of the paintings. Slow looking, rather like the intense scrutiny a painter might give his or her own work during the course of its creation, was very much in evidence... Diebenkorn's large abstractions caused some to use seeing as a way to access another kind of experience. More than a few visitors wanted to meditate on the paintings; to use their inspections of the art as a means to turn inward towards both the personal and the spiritual."
Seed continues, noting that this type of looking experience is most famously fostered at the Rothko Chapel where Mark Rothko was "commissioned by the de Menils to create paintings for the chapel because they saw his work as reaching towards a modern, universal religiosity. Dominique de Menil felt strongly that '...real creators, always working at the edge of their perceptions, may reach spiritual regions bordering on the sacred.'She also held the conviction that Rothko's works represented a 'search for the infinite,' one that had emerged from 'dark and silence.' "
NPR's Pat Dowell looks at the Rothko Chapel and its 40 year history. In addition to the All Things Considered audio podcast, Dowell's web feature also offers podcast interviews with Rothko Chapel Executive Director Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, author Susan Barnes, and Christopher Rothko.
The Rothko Chapel is one of the few places where the work of a single artist defines the space. In his interview with NPR, Christopher Rothko, the artist's son, notes that Rothko was interested in expanding the expressive possibilities of painting through a controlled installation of related works:
"He really wanted to engage his view in something much, much deeper… so he was really pursuing this idea of rooms, of installations, then ultimately with the chapel where he could control almost all parameters to maximize that effect and really have that communication with the viewer, not simply have what I call the.. "drive by effect" in the museum where you see the painting, you sort of note it out of the corner of your eye and then you're on to the next thing."
Tyler Green talks to curator Sarah Bancroft and conservator Ana Alba about the exhibition Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. from June 30 - September 23, 2012.
Bancroft notes that the Corcoran exhibit includes both Ocean Park #6 and Ocean Park #11, the "earliest paintings in the series, the first five were destroyed or put away…[by the artist]... they're both much more biomorphic and organic… they have a stronger relationship to his figurative work."
Bancroft also discusses an interesting commission Diebenkorn completed: documenting water reclammation projects in Arizona. She notes that "[Diebenkorn] often commented about the idea of process in the land, and seeing this history of what had happened, whether it be tilling or scarring or working the land, and he wanted to get that idea into his work… the history of the making of the painting is the painting. It's that idea of topography, of process… rather than obliterating the history of his compositional expression over time, allowing you to really see it…"
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.