Notes on Art

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Jul 2

Mark Rothko, Rothko Chapel, 1971

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Dominique and John de Menil commissioned this Houston, Texas chapel from Mark Rothko as a meditative space and meeting hall open to people of all religions.

Given creative license over the design of the chapel, Rothko often clashed with the building’s original architect, Philip Johnson, as well as the two architects that followed. The design ended up being an octagon within a Greek cross. The reflecting pool in front is Johnson’s design, and the sculpture, Broken Obelisk, was created by Barnett Newman in 1967 as a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. Eight movable benches also occupy the space.

Rothko painted 14 site-specific black but color-hued and textured paintings for the space, along with four alternates. The artist never saw the finished product, having committed suicide in 1970 in his New York City apartment.

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