Curator Gwen Chanzit leads media preview of Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s (Photos)

Gwen Chanzit, curator of modern and contemporary art, previewed the rare new exhibition Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s on June 20th.

This exhibition traces the development of Rothko’s work during the most critical decade of his career. In the early ’40s, Rothko rejected realism and began a series of abstract works meant to evoke classical myth; in the late ’40s he created his first color field paintings, the works on which his stature as one of the most famous American painters of the post-war period rests. The exhibition also includes paintings by other celebrated abstract expressionists such as Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, and Jackson Pollock.

DAM staff members shared photos they captured in the exhibition. Take a look to read some quotes we noted from Chanzit and get a preview of the new exhibition on Level 1 of the Hamilton Building.

Figure to Field:Mark Rothko in the 1940s is now on view on Level 1 of the Hamilton Building through September 29th.

Entrance to Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s on Level 1 of the Hamilton Building.

The Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s title wall at the Denver Art Museum.

Gwen Chanzit discussed the importance of the exhibition on June 20. "This exhibition is very special because it brings the rare opportunity not only to see a large number of works by Mark Rothko, but especially to be able to see this particular group of works that are almost never on view, anywhere. Most were selected from the extensive Rothko holdings of the National Gallery in Washington, DC.”

Gwen Chanzit discussed the use of myth in Mark Rothko’s early works at the Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s media preview at the Denver Art Museum on June 20.

Gwen Chanzit noted of Mark Rothko's early works: "The 1940s became the important ten-year-period for Rothko and his generation of artists who came to maturity at the end of the decade. During the tumultuous 1940s, Rothko worked alongside artists such as Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock, sharing a search for universal truths amidst World War II. That search led Rothko to reject realism and the figure, as he moved through his investigations of myth and surrealism, informed by Freud, Jung, and Nietzsche. By the end of the '40s, it would lead to Rothko’s own signature works, which had distilled image to essential fields of luminous color."

Gwen Chanzit discussed the later works of Mark Rothko at the Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s media preview at the Denver Art Museum on June 20.

“We’ve arranged seating in the last gallery so our visitors have the opportunity to contemplate these paintings. With layered, luminous fields of color, some may appear to be lit from within. These late works are the paintings that have the capacity to evoke quiet meditation and are the works on which Rothko’s fame as a master of the sublime in the twentieth century, rests.”

Mark Rothko



Oil paint on canvas

Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., National Gallery of Art, 1986.43.35 © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Carley Strauss was a digital communications intern in the communications department at the Denver Art Museum in 2013.