This last weekend I went to visit my sister who lives outside of Baltimore. Last time I went to visit, we took a walk around a few museums in Washington DC, one of which was the National Gallery of Art. We spent most of our time in that amazing building, so much so, we couldn’t check out the East Wing which houses Modern Art. This last visit was different. We started out in the East Wing. I have to say, it was one of the more impressive collection of Modern Art I have seen.
I am a massive Mark Rothko fan. I feel in love with his Abstract Expressionist art back in college. When I look at his works, I become engulfed by them. I can stare at his attempt to find emotion through paint and color for days. Naturally, the East Wing had a Rothko in one of their exhibition rooms. But, to my surprise as we moved through the museum, they had a few more. One such room had three Rothkos. Three Rothkos from his vibrant color period, with such amazing color, feeling and size. That is another aspect of Rothko’s work, I love the size of his paintings. He painted on such a grand scale, you get consumed by the work. It overpowers the room, takes your attention away from everything else. I just sat there for a while to soak it all in.
We moved further into the museum and we came across Rothko El Dorado. Yes, they had, what must have been, nine Rothko paintings on display from the Rothko Chapel in Texas. They were all situated in one room, on the top floor of the museum in their own chapel if you will. Indirect sunlight was coming through the ceiling that illuminated the works perfectly. Just two benches for viewers to sit on in the massively solemn room. There was a sense of spirituality in this minimalistic approach to his work. It was simply amazing. While I sat in that room, taking Rothko’s last step toward a transcendental enlightenment, I started to feel what he was going after. I started to understand his spirituality and at the same time, was understanding my own. It was an amazing experience and I didn’t want to leave.
The rest of the works in the museum were magnificent as well. A Barnett Newman room of paintings, much in the style of Rothko’s Chapel works. The museum also had a significant amount of Roy Lichtenstein paintings, Jasper Johns paintings and prints (the prints were pretty fantastic) and Robert Rauschenberg works, including my favorite silk screens. What a deeply religious experience to be had in the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. I cannot wait to return!