In 1961 the Whitechapel Gallery held the first solo show of American artist Mark Rothko in Britain. This landmark exhibition is brought vividly to life through the Gallery's archives of original photographs, letters from the artist and new recordings of visitor's memories presented alongside Rothko's painting Light Red Over Black (1957).
Mark Rothko (1903–1970) was part of a generation of American painters whose style became known as Abstract Expressionism. From the 1950s he used muted colours to make luminous rectangles seemingly hover on the surface of the canvas. While realising his Whitechapel Gallery exhibition he outlined precise instructions of how he wanted his work to be displayed, such as the lighting levels and hanging height of paintings. All this created an immersive experience for the viewer. Reviewing the show in The New Statesman art critic David Sylvester wrote, ‘Faced with Rothko’s paintings at Whitechapel, one feels oneself unbearably hemmed-in by forces buffeting one’s every nerve’
The display sheds new light on Rothko’s connection with Britain, highlighting the strong relationships he formed during his trip in the summer of 1959 and an era of dialogue between British and American artists.