Abstract Expressionist New York
October 3, 2010–April 25, 2011
The irregular patches of color characteristic of the artist’s Multiform paintings of 1948 seem to have settled into place on this canvas, which Rothko divided horizontally into three dominant planes of color that softly and subtly merge into one another. Between 1949 and 1950 Rothko simplified the compositional structure of his paintings and arrived at this, his signature style. He explained, "The progression of a painter's work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer." MoMA acquired No. 10 in 1952. The painting—the first by Rothko to enter the collection—was so radical for the time that a trustee of the Museum resigned in protest.
Abstract Expressionist New York: The Big Picture, October 3, 2010–April 25, 2011
Director, Glenn Lowry: The artist's son Christopher Rothko oversees the Rothko Family Foundation and Archive. He has also published a book on his father's writings, The Artist’s Reality.
Christopher Rothko: I really do see space as the defining element in my father's classic abstractions. My father frames the work; he controls the action; he basically sets the stage via the forms and via the space.
And what I love about this is just not the sort of surprising juxtaposition of white and yellow and blue but there's quite a bit of brown in there as well, which I think provides a very important backdrop to let these colors sing. You have to look really hard for a true rectangle. They're always rounded, softened, cut off suggestions of rectangles.
And I think in doing that, he is always emphasizing the humanness of the painting. This is no machine-age painting. This is painted by a real painter, really by hand and if the artist sort of dreams a rectangle that isn't really a rectangle, that's what it's about.
I think it's in those transition points between the rectangles where you have the sort of feathery end of one rectangle and the feathery beginnings of another, and juxtaposed with the background color. That's where the real electricity is.