This inaugural exhibition at Pace Gallery’s second London location sees Rothko’s lesser-known darker paintings juxtaposed with Sugimoto’s photographs of the horizon between sea and sky. Sugimoto’s photographs play with our perception, daring us to see something realist in the sublime blurs. These compliment Rothko’s later paintings beautifully, which have a different energy to his more famous Seagram murals. In those the paintings hit you with force, the paintings at Pace are quieter, but equally as powerful.
Like Sugimoto’s work on display, Rothko’s paintings also employ the use of horizon, or two blocks of colours. In comparison to his earlier work, Rothko’s lines are bolder, which gives the show balance against Sugimoto’s blurred edges and provides variation to those who may only know the hazy strokes of his earlier work. The exploration of horizon in these works provides a continuous awareness throughout the exhibition, but do not be tempted however to see this as the sole reading in the exhibition and each piece. Colour can provide a far richer experience of these pieces. In the paintings, Rothko’s palette is muted, as are Sugimoto’s photographs. The works shown in this exhibition could be seen as monotone, if not given enough time. However these pieces have the possibility to demonstrate the colour in a monochrome palette to the viewer.
…merely a conduit to allow the viewer to explore the potential of being absorbed…
There is much that could be discussed with regards to the use of line and horizon in this exhibition. However this is not where the true experience of the works lie. The use of line is merely a conduit to allow the viewer to explore the potential of being absorbed in the wealth of tone that lies in these monochrome pieces, and to explore the experiences that differ in later Rothko pieces compared to his earlier works.
Sugimoto’s photographs shown in this exhibition are powerful and hold their own against Rothko’s paintings. This creates a balanced and influential exhibition. In the light of recent events surrounding the defacing of one of the Seagram murals, this exhibition feels very precious and one that must be seen.
Rothko/Sugimoto is at Pace Gallery, 6 Burlington Gardens, until November 16 2012.