Alternately radiant and dark, Rothko's art is distinguished by a rare degree of sustained concentration on pure pictorial properties such as color, surface, proportion, and scale, accompanied by the conviction that those elements could disclose the presence of a high philosophical truth. Visual elements such as luminosity, darkness, broad space, and the contrast of colors have been linked, by the artist himself as well as other commentators, to profound themes such as tragedy, ecstasy, and the sublime. Rothko, however, generally avoided explaining the content of his work, believing that the abstract image could directly represent the fundamental nature of "human drama."
The Mark Rothko exhibition (May 3 - August 16, 1998) is the first comprehensive American retrospective of the artist's work in twenty years. With 115 works on canvas and paper encompassing all phases of Rothko's career, the exhibition reveals the remarkable depth of Rothko's artistic achievement. This web feature includes a selection of works in the exhibition, as well as a number of paintings and drawings in the Gallery's permanent collection, some of which are not currently on view.