ArtGrams: The Rothko Room

Welcome to the first of our newest monthly blog series, ArtGrams, where we feature our favorite Instagrammed pictures taken around or inspired by the museum. We love seeing you create your own works of art using unique perspectives, strategic crops, and the funkiest filters.

Each month, we’ll feature a different theme based on trends we’ve seen in visitor photos; first up, The Rothko Room. The room’s bold colors and shapes have inspired these great shots. Be sure to hashtag your images with #PhillipsCollection or tag your location for a chance to be featured.

Rothko Room_1_allwegrow

Via Instagrammer @allwegrow: “We spent our 3 year anniversary visiting the Rothko Room”

Rothko Room_2_jamellita

via Instagrammer @jamellita: “American Living: ‘Luna and me in Rothko’s room'”

Rothko Room_3_mrscis

Via Instagrammer @mrscis: “Admiring the beauties of the centuries”

Rothko Room_4_pennykim

Via Instagrammer @pennykim

Rothko Room_5_pootie_ting

Via Instagrammer @pootie_ting: “Feeling Red. Rothko Red.”



Other-Worldliness: The Rothko Room, Laib Wax Room…and Japanese Tea Rooms


The Rothko Room, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. Photo: Ben Resine

Intimate relationships with artworks invite us into the artist’s world, in which we are all equal.

As intimacy is essential for communication in human society, this experience is also very important for communicating and connecting with modern art; it is the intimate relationship between art appreciators and the artworks themselves that encourages viewers to think about the concepts and philosophy behind a piece.

In The Phillips Collection, a personal connection with the art is provoked by the special environment—intimate, immersive rooms. The museum also has two permanent installations which are significantly smaller than other galleries—the Rothko Room and the Laib Wax Room. Because these installations are set apart from the rest of the galleries—rooms entirely designed or created by the artists themselves—they evoke a unique sense of other-worldliness. Upon stepping inside, we feel the artworks and the artists with all of our senses, as if we know them very well, regardless of how much we know about the artists’ lives. This experience allows us to feel as if we are isolated from the real world and invited to the world of the artists.

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The Laib Wax Room. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

As a native of Japan, I find the experience of the Rothko Room and Laib Wax Room similar to that of a Japanese traditional small tea room. While not all Japanese tea rooms are small, some are deliberately so, for other-worldliness is the basic concept of the design. Additionally, it is interesting to note that the rooms are small in order to make people confront the tea, the teamaker, and the ritual behind creating and drinking it. The smallness of the rooms creates an intimate relationship between people and their tea.

There are also similarities in atmosphere. When a tea ceremony takes place in the small tea rooms, tension floats among the participants, which gives the ceremony a ritualistic feeling. This distinctive atmosphere can be also experienced in the Rothko Room and the Laib Wax Room by virtue of the closeness and the visual perception of the environments, which remind me of churches or the tombs of ancient Egypt. The solemn atmosphere often makes me both interested and hesitant to enter. My footsteps slowed as I entered these rooms—I would describe the experience as a feeling of awe.

However, there is a difference between the Rothko and Laib Wax Rooms and Japanese tea rooms; the size of the entrances. Doorways into tea rooms are so small that most people need to stoop down to get in, requiring each person to bend his or her head as if bowing. As you may know, the act of bowing is the traditional Japanese way of showing respect. Performing this act upon entering shows that social class is not valid in the tea ceremony; everyone enters as equals. Although the entrances of the Rothko and Laib Wax Rooms are of normal size, the same idea can be applied. Social status has no use in these artists’ worlds, as we are isolated from the real world.

Aya Takagi, Curatorial and Center for the Study of Modern Art Intern

A Bittersweet Meditation: Cocktail Talk with Firefly’s Jon Harris

Rothko Room_Red

(Left) Rothko Room at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Photo: Max Hirshfeld (Right) Mark Rothko, Orange and Red on Red, 1957. Oil on canvas, 68 7/8 x 66 3/8 in. Acquired 1960, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Behind the bar at Firefly in Dupont Circle, Jon Harris is to liquor what Mark Rothko was to paint: a true artist. In celebration of the opening of Made in the USA: American Masters from The Phillips Collection, 1850–1970, Jon Harris has created a one of a kind cocktail for the March 6 Phillips After 5, Mad Museum: The American 60s. His cocktail, the Bittersweet Meditation, is inspired by the post-war Abstract Expressionists and more specifically Mark Rothko’s bold use of color and the tranquil space of the collection’s Rothko Room. We talked with Jon a little about his cocktail, the inspiration, and the connection between cocktails and art.

Cocktail_jon harris

Photo: Stephanie Breijo

Tell us a little about the Bittersweet Meditation cocktail, what is it made with?
It’s made with bourbon, campari, lime, ginger beer, and angostura bitters. Simply pour the bourbon, campari, lime, and ginger beer over ice in a tall glass and dash the top with angostura bitters.

What is the inspiration behind the cocktail?
I was trying to do some color blocking, which is a Rothko thing. The drink has deep hues of red cascading from top to the bottom due to the bitters being dashed on top.

Do you have any thoughts on the connection between art and cocktails?
Drinking cocktails is a precursor to understanding a lot of art. Many artists were/are inebriated regularly in some way. Get on the same level. But otherwise, a thing that a lot of people forget is that drinks (and food, for that matter) are visual arts. You look at it before you smell it and taste it, so it better look good. So you may look to the visual arts to learn how to use color to create moods and effects. You think constantly about how to present things—which type of glass makes the drink look best.

Also, I think about broad strokes and fine strokes a lot, which is derived from painting. Broad stroke drinks use heavy concentrations of several (fairly intense) liquors, whereas fine strokes involves featuring one liquor and small amounts (dashes and spoonfuls) of others to accentuate it. An example of the former would be the negroni, which is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and campari, all duking it out in one glass. A fine stroke example would be the old fashioned, which features whisky with a simple dash of bitters, a spritz of lemon peel, and a bit of simple syrup to accentuate the whisky.

Jon Harris will join Firefly Chef Todd Wiss for a special cocktail and plate pairing at this Thursday’s Mad Men-themed Phillips After 5.