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Seeing the Light

The familiar and evocative mature paintings of Mark Rothko channel pathos in their glowing blocks of color, but they did not leap onto the canvas automatically. The journey that took Rothko from more traditional roots to shimmering shapes is explored in a new exhibit opening today at the Denver Art Museum: In a way similar to how the evolution of Clyfford Still’s painting was presented by the nearby Still Museum, Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s follows the famed color-field painter’s trail for a decade, tracking the change from his figurative roots to his early abstractions.

“By the end of this decade, the rectangular bands that quietly described the backgrounds of earlier paintings became the essential fields of his mature works,” DAM modern-art curator Gwen Chanzit explains. Most of the 28 paintings in the exhibit come from the National Gallery of Art’s expansive Rothko collection; the addition of eleven works by related abstract-expressionist painters, including Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and Still, will strengthen the context of Rothko’s transformation.

Figure to Field, which provides a contemplative counterpoint to the DAM’s concurrent Nick Cave extravaganza, opens today at the DAM, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, and continues through September 29; admission is included in the museum gate fee of $3 to $13. Go to or call 720-865-5000 for information.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: June 23. Continues through Sept. 29, 2013


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