Pat Steir: Considering Rothko
Lévy Gorvy, Palm Beach
March 6 - April 4, 2021
Pat Steir: Considering Rothko (2021) featured new paintings by the American artist at Lévy Gorvy, Palm Beach. Considering Rothko represented Steir’s exploration of and deep engagement with the legacy of Mark Rothko, which began with an early encounter between her and the famed Abstract Expressionist in the 1960s when Steir was starting her career as a painter. Created in her Chelsea studio in New York during the pandemic quarantine, the 13 paintings in the exhibition drew on her predecessor’s remarkable use of color and his investigations into the sublime possibilities of abstraction, portrayed through Steir’s signature pictorial approach.
Steir recounts her meeting with Rothko in Cape Cod in her 20s, saying, “It was in the early 1960s; I was a guest at the Tworkov house in Provincetown, Massachusetts—Jack Tworkov and his wife Wally. I was friends with both of their daughters. Rothko was teaching for a few summers in Provincetown. I went up to him at a dinner party and I said, ‘Mr. Rothko, I love your work!’ I was worshiping him—and he said, ‘You’re a pretty girl. Why aren’t you married?’ He didn’t even register that I was an artist and loved his work. He looked like my father. So, when he said to me, ‘Why aren’t you married?’ that seemed appropriate. I was disappointed. I was hoping to discuss color theory with him.”
Despite this early exchange, Steir continued to be inspired by Rothko. The deep maroons, intensely saturated reds, and luminescent yellows and oranges of the Considering Rothko paintings call to mind her predecessor’s palette filtered through Steir’s own sensibilities. “Rothko is still a hero to me,” states Steir. “Gone but not forgotten. I went through many years of not being so fond of his work. I didn’t understand it. Now, I understand how methodically he was using color.” The works reveal Steir’s joy of painting, and her belief that it is the artist’s responsibility to bring light and hope to an otherwise darkened world. Here, her homage to Rothko gave rise to freer experimentation of overlapping brushstrokes and drips, as well as floating forms and color combinations.