Mark Rothko, Underground Fantasy [Subway], c. 1940, National Gallery of Art, Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., 1986.43.130

He produced a number of haunting images of the New York subway, in which windows, portals, and walls serve as structural and expressive devices of confinement. Rothko shows the subway as a measured yet eccentric place, containing a dramatic contrast of perspectival extremes: walls and railings are represented as flat screens, while tracks recede sharply. Figures can be identified by anecdotal details of dress as commuters, shoppers, or schoolchildren, but they are largely attenuated, faceless, and flat.


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