Cultural Travel

Portland Goes Rothko

Visit Rose City for a modern-art bonanza.

By Allison Williams February 17, 2012

Rothko (Daniel Benzali) has a favorite color in Red.

Photo courtesy Portland Center Stage.

Don’t look at a Mark Rothko painting and say, "I could’ve painted that." Sure, his signature style is simple, with one or two colors stacked in rectangles. But the Portland-raised artist, a Russian immigrant first known as Marcus Rothkowitz, was a revolutionary.

Tomorrow the Portland Art Museum launches Mark Rothko, the artist’s first-ever retrospective in his first American hometown. Some 45 surrealist pieces, still lifes, and abstract works have been gathered from the National Gallery of Art and the Rothko family’s own collections. On March 10, chamber group Third Angle Ensemble will perform works by pioneering minimalist composers at the museum, including a Rothko-themed piece by Morton Feldman.

Not to be outdone, Portland Center Stage is mounting a production of Red, a Tony-winning play about Rothko and his fictional assistant. In it, the irascible artist is tasked with creating a a series of paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City, all the time questioning the meaning, necessity, and commercialization of art. The play runs February 21 through March 18.

At downtown Portland’s Hotel Lucia, Rothko fever is in full swing with a package featuring exhibition tickets, $20 off at the museum gift shop, and themed cocktails. Plus, guests get $10 off performances of Red. Rooms at the boutique are $199 per night through May 27.

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