In April, through the Downing Grant, I had the incredible experience of visiting the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. Viewing Mark Rothko’s monumental paintings within the chapel and observing the entire layout in person contributed immensely to the creation of my Honors project. I plan to explore how the concept of the sublime applies to both the conception of the design and the paintings within the Rothko Chapel.
Founded in 1971 by philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, the Rothko Chapel is a sacred space open to people of all beliefs. Designed by Mark Rothko, one of the most prominent American artists of the twentieth century, the chapel is a meditative, spiritual sanctuary that contains fourteen of his characteristic Abstract Expressionist paintings. Rothko felt that the chapel would be his most important artistic statement. Created during the end of his career (he committed suicide in 1970), the chapel could also be viewed as embodying not only the sublime but also this darker time in his life.
Even if one isn’t interested in Rothko or Abstract Expressionism, the space is unlike anything created before and a completely unique experience. Christopher Rothko, son of the artist, has described it as “a place that will really not just invite, but also demand a kind of journey.”
The area around the Rothko Chapel is also home to a number of other unique architectural structures, such as Phillip Johnson’s Chapel of Saint Basil on the campus of the University of Saint Thomas.—Sujin Shin, BA’17