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Mark Rothko at the KHM


The Kunsthistorisches Museum has changed gears and is now spoiling art lovers with something slightly unexpected: an exhibition dedicated to the great American artist Mark Rothko.

There is an explanation for having a master of Abstract Expressionism among the Rembrandts and the Bruegels of the Kunsthistorisches, if anybody needs it. And it has to do with the fact that Rothko was deeply influenced by the old masters while honing his artistic idiom. The link is made visible by the curator of the exhibition who inserted references to paintings from the permanent collection of the museum.

The show takes the viewer on a chronological journey through Rothko’s artistic development. Starting with early works that contain figurative elements these gradually dissolve into mythological figures which later give way to organic shapes. At the end, we reach the rooms that contain paintings from the period that defined Rothko’s signature style: large blocks of stacked rectangles where the subtle use of color plays with the visitor’s thoughts, emotions, memories. There are few works of modern art capable to make some people cry and some others ask themselves: “is this art? I don’t understand anything.” Rothko’s have this strange power to keep a viewer captive to something which is beyond any explanation. And this is a rare gift in a world where looking for explanations is the favorite self-cure against everyday anxieties.

The Rothko exhibition is on display until 30th of June. Go see it and don’t attempt to understand everything. Understanding is sometimes overrated! (Ra).

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