Focus: Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko

Focus: Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

May 16, 2008

Focus: Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko
Painting & Sculpture Galleries, 4th floor

11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-9400


Focus: Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko presents five paintings by Ad Reinhardt and six by Mark Rothko—two artists rarely exhibited side by side—in a continuation of the Museum’s ongoing Focus series, which provides an opportunity for in-depth and cross-disciplinary presentations of notable aspects of MoMA’s collection. This installation focuses specifically on the fertile years between the late 1940s and the early 1960s, the period in which each artist identified the style and format that would engage him for the rest of his career.

Reinhardt and Rothko’s ideas about form and color challenged and reconsidered European artistic traditions and philosophies, giving rise to a unique American sensibility in art, particularly in painting. While their Abstract Expressionist colleagues relied on grand, expressive gestures and brushwork, Reinhardt and Rothko both pursued subtleties of a radical nature in color and form. These large-scale works are all-encompassing and seek to sustain the viewer’s attention through physical sensations and changing visual perceptions.

The exhibition is organized by Elizabeth Reede, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art.

During the early 1950s Reinhardt (American, 1913 – 1967) utilized the planar surface of the canvas as a support for his experiments with and studies of monochrome palettes, in blue, red, and, black. By mid-decade, he had committed to an increasingly nocturnal palette of layered, almost indistinguishable colors laid adjacent to one another in a vertical rectilinear format. Those experiments are represented by the paintings Number 107 (1950), Abstract Painting (Blue) (1952), and Abstract Painting, Red (1952). His exploration of color and symmetry eventually led to the quietly ordered sub-patterns and homogeneous surfaces of his five-foot-square black paintings, such as Abstract Painting (1963).

Like Reinhardt, Rothko (American, 1903 -1970) had a profound interest in internal compositional organization. In the late 1940s, Rothko began his decades-long exploration of a compositional structure in which soft-edged forms floated atop one another within oversized, color-saturated canvases that seem to envelop the viewer. These gaseous forms, often in vibrant colors, were intentionally placed in order to pulsate optically. Works on view in the exhibition include No. 16 (Red, Brown, and Black) (1958), No.37/No.19 (Slate Blue and Brown on Plum) (1958), and Red and Orange (1955).

This exhibition, part of an ongoing series highlighting noteworthy aspects of the Museum’s collection, is made possible by BNP Paribas.

For press information, please contact Kim Donica at 212-708-9752 or

Image above: Ad Reinhardt. Abstract Painting. 1957. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art. Purchase. Copyright: 2008 Estate of Ad Reinhardt/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Mark Rothko. No. 5/No. 22. 1950. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of the artist. Copyright: 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
May 16, 2008

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