Rothko Chapel – Houston, TX
Mark Rothko was an American abstract expressionist painter known for his large minimalistic color paintings. Sometimes his works would contain more than one color but in the Rothko chapel every painting is a variation of the color purple or perhaps black depending on the perception of the viewer or time of the day. The Rothko Chapel is a very minimalistic work in itself. It is an octagonal structure with a large open area in the center with benches. Natural light shines from the opening in the ceiling to help illuminate the paintings along the walls. Allison, her mother P.J., and I visited the chapel on a cloudy day and to be fair, the light was probably not as good as it could be. Any variation in the paintings was tough to decipher.
The chapel is in the Montrose region of Houston, so it is not very difficult to find. We were headed to the zoo and stopped on our way. Food and water were not allowed in the chapel so I left my drink in the entrance area. A receptionist was available to ask questions and there were books with information on Rothko as well as the chapel itself.
As an artist myself, the idea that a painting can express many things without words is something I try to emphasize in my work and something Rothko attempted to achieve. He wanted to express basic human emotions. He was successful to many people, and thus has a large following and his paintings sell for millions. Unfortunately, I was not overly impressed with the works in the chapel, perhaps a better natural lighting would have helped.
On a side note, a sculpture by the artist Barnett Newman called “Broken Obelisk” (pictured in the first image of this post) was not there, I don’t remember if it was on loan or being renovated, but it was a work I would have liked to see. The calmness of the mirror-like pool outside (again pictured in the first image) was as beautiful as anything inside the building and emphasized the less is more quality of the chapel.
Ultimately, if you are a Rothko fan you will enjoy the chapel. If you are someone who is either unfamiliar with his work or uninspired by it, you may be disappointed. I enjoyed the Menil Collection, which is practically next door, because of its variety of art. If you are a lover of art and in the area I’d encourage a visit as both are free to the public.