Rothko & Sugimoto @ Pace

For its inaugural exhibition at its second London location at Burlington Gardens, New York gallery Pace opens with Mark Rothko and Hiroshi Sugimoto. The gallery space which has previously been occupied by Haunch of Venison and is neighbour to the Royal Academy has been renovated by Sir David Chipperfield. The predominantly dark show is the first in which Rothko’s work has been displayed in a private gallery in London for 50 years, in which his paintings are shown alongside the seascape photography of Sugimoto.

This is not the first time the pairing of artists from different locations and timeframes has been shown at Pace. The gallery has a history of creating dialogues between artists in different circumstances and this one seems perfectly fitting. Furthermore, the gallery has a thirty year relationship with the Rothko family, having presented ten exhibitions showing the artists work.

The show is curated in such a way that neither artist shows up the other – they compliment one another perfectly. In fact, it has been noted that Rothko did not like group shows as he felt it detracted from the power of his work, but when his children saw Sugimoto’s photos they had found ‘not just a kindred spirit but a soulmate’, which is evident when viewing the exhibition.

Sugimoto has acknowledged Rothko’s inspiration for him taking an abstract route into photography, after a show at the New York Guggenheim in 1978. Despite the majority of Sugimoto’s photographs being taken in the 90s, thirty years after the Rothko works in the show, they look as though they are from the same time. These dark seascapes of blacks, greys and white are intertwined between eight lesser known paintings from Mark Rothko, all painted in 1969, the year before the artist’s death. Both artists show a binary composition of rectangular elements – the work is raw, emotional, stripped down to its bare bones. However, despite the similarities between the too, the works are individually very different still. Hugimoto’s gelation silver prints have a haunting stillness which cannot be seen in Rothko’s paintings. The images are perfectly peaceful, it is hard to believe they are images of the sea, they appear very simplistic and minimal, yet command their own power. Conversely, Rothko’s acrylic paintings are full of feeling. The brush marks are clear to see – full of expression and emotion. The paintings are a departure from the artist’s brighter canvases, with a limited grey palate and just two distinct rectangle encased by a white margin unique to this series.

This is an outstanding show for its new location. The images are breathtaking and the pairing is perfect – a must see!

Rothko/Sugimoto: Dark Paintings and Seascapes is open at Pace London until 17 November

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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