The Rothko Chapel, 2008
Chromogenic print, edition 3/10
70.125 x 91 x 2.375 inches
Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery
In 1964, John and Dominique de Menil commissioned artist Mark Rothko to create a series of fourteen paintings for a chapel they were building in Houston, Texas. Rothko seized the opportunity to design an environment in which the spiritual power of his work could be fully realized. Since its dedication, the nondenominational chapel has been a sanctuary and source of inspiration for thousands of visitors each year.
The Rothko Chapel was intended to elicit contemplation, and Thomas Struth reflects its careful construction in the symmetry and balance of his photograph. We are, however, seeing the Rothko paintings out of context and in reproduction. The two meditative individuals in the frame remind us of this remove. They also make us realize we are engaging in the same ritual—looking at art—when we stand before Struth's photograph. How this ritual might change an artwork's meaning is a question Struth leaves for us to consider.