A Visit to the Rothko Chapel in Houston

This weekend, I had the chance to see a wonderful rendition of the Tony Award-winning play, Red, at Boston Center for the Arts. Based on the life of abstract painter, Mark Rothko, I couldn’t help thinking of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, which I visited while doing a story for The Boston Globe on the art scene in the city. While many of Rothko’s earlier works displayed layers of vibrant colors such as the red in the title of the play, these later paintings were monochromatic where black and dark brown predominate. Rothko’s emotions tend to carry over to his canvases and these were painful to view. I remember the works vividly almost a decade after seeing them. Often in travel, we search for the stupendous landscapes and exotic wildlife, but it’s the misadventures or a poignant moment in an unusual chapel in Texas that we often remember with more clarity. Here’s what I originally wrote for The Boston Globe:
“My first stop was an octagonal-shaped yellow-brick building that looks like part of an elementary school from the 1950s. This is the Rothko Chapel. Prayer books from every religion line the wall of the entrance indicating that this place of sanctuary is non-denominational. Those familiar with Rothko’s vague rectangular color fields, painted with gently toned hues, will be shocked to see the 14 large canvases that encircle the somber room. Rothko suffered from serious depression, which is evident in these late acrylics, primarily black in color with light tinges of blue. He would end up committing suicide a year before the chapel opened in 1971. Any soul who feels the least bit anguished should take a seat on one of the four benches and stare into these monumental abstracts, knowing that someone else shares your pain.”