Highbrow/Lowbrow: A weekly update on Denver culture from deliciously fancy to wonderfully mundane

STATUS: Highbrow

WHAT: Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s

Mark Rothko, No. 9,  Mark Rothko, No. 9, 1948. Oil and mixed media on canvas. Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. National Gallery of Art, 1986.43.143 ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C

Mark Rothko, No. 9 ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C

The Denver Art Museum continues to excite with its lineup of exhibits, collections and featured artists. “Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s” does not disappoint. This unique exhibit opened on June 23rd and displays a critical decade of progression in Rothko’s career. The 40s were a time of experimentation in form, color and style for the artist. It is evident in the unique range of work in this collection, 28 in total on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

As expected, the most eye catching part of the exhibit includes the works for which he became renowned for: abstract color fields. These large mixed media pieces focus on color alone making the shapes inconsequential. The colors range from vivid to muted, moving with ease and lack of confinement. I found myself staring for longer than I should have.

Mark Rothko, Untitled ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Mark Rothko, Untitled ©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

What makes this exhibit completely fascinating are the distinct styles that span the decade of work. Rothko’s turmoil is evident throughout, but there is also an apparent new found sense of freedom in his art. I highly suggest taking an afternoon to lose yourself in this unconventional collection before it departs on September 29th.