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Chrysler Museum of Art Opens Mark Rothko Perceptions of Being

Exhibition features five works on loan from the National Gallery of Art

The Chrysler Museum of Art presents Mark Rothko: Perceptions of Beingon view from September 28 to January 8, 2012. The exhibition includes the Chrysler’s own No. 5 (Untitled), 1949, that serves as the centerpiece of this focused exhibition of work by the great abstract expressionist.

Other works include five paintings on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.—each a gift of the Mark Rothko Foundation. The exhibition shows the evolution of the modernist’s work throughout his career.

Rothko’s first paintings of expressionistic cityscapes, landscapes, portraits, and still life eventually led in the 1940s to an exploration of myth and the unconscious using the precepts of Surrealism, as well as the study of ancient civilizations, philosophy, and analytical psychology.

The development of his renowned veils of color from 1949 onward related in part to Surrealism’s project of unveiling half-formed images in the subconscious. Rothko described his mature works as “tragic dramas” that continue his earlier work in a more abstract format.

The viewer’s perception and emotional relationship with his work were a primary concern for Rothko. The Chrysler’s exhibition replicates the viewing conditions that Rothko considered essential to experiencing his work. He painted large canvases not to emphasize their grandiose quality, but to envelope the viewer in a “very intimate and human” visual atmosphere, in the artist’s words. In the early 1950s, he began to dictate that his abstract works be hung low and close together, so that viewers were engulfed by the forms and their chromatic intensity. As Rothko’s forms hover indeterminately between being and non-being, they make us acutely aware of our own existence.

The exhibition coincides with Virginia Stage Company’s fall production of RED, John Logan’s Tony-winning play about the artist and his angst. The production will be held at the Wells Theater in Norfolk from October 18 to November 6, 2011.

The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of America’s most distinguished mid-sized art museums with a world-class collection of more than 30,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America. The Museum is located at 245 West Olney Road in Norfolk and is open Wednesdays, 10 a.m. -9 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. The Chrysler is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as major holidays. Admission to the Museum’s collection is free. For exhibitions, programming and special events, visit or call 757-664-6200.

Image: Mark Rothko, No. 5 (Untitled), 1949. Oil on unprimed canvas. Bequest of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.©1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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