Last night, Klaus Ottmann, director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art and curator at large, gave his talk Rothko and Color: A Two-Part Meditation to a packed house of 275 attendees. The auditorium was filled to capacity, standing room filled. Even our overflow seating outside of the auditorium was brimming, with people sitting on the floor and lining the walls. With our permanently installed Rothko Room, the special hanging at the National Gallery of Art, and the impending opening of John Logan’s play Red at Arena Stage, D.C. is fully embracing Mark Rothko’s exploration of the experience of color.
As a fine art student at Virginia Commonwealth University, I was lucky enough to hear visiting artist Alfredo Jaar speak in 1991 about his installation piece Geography=War (1990). This work was comprised of enlarged color photo transparencies mounted on light-boxes that hung face-down from the ceiling, reflected in the surfaces of large oil drums filled with water. The installation spaces were dark and viewers had to keep moving around the work in order to read the images in full. The reward for such physical engagement was Jaar’s powerful photographs of ravaged landscapes and people enslaved to environmentally destructive labor. He was a passionate and captivating speaker and demonstrated that the world can be changed by the messages we create with our art.
Jaar gave another inspiring talk as part of the Duncan Phillips Lectures in October 2010. If you missed it in person, be sure to listen to it here.