Black Painting Nº 8, by Mark Rothko, 1964
These works mark a complete break with his colour field paintings of the 1950s, not only for their radically different deployment of colour. At first glance, these paintings may appear solid black. However, prolonged contemplation reveals the slow build-up of the surface through multiple layers and the close attention Rothko paid to gradations in tone and texture.
Rather than annihilating colour and light, the Black-Form paintings appear almost luminous as their surfaces absorb and reflect light. The paintings invite the viewer to look more closely, introducing an element of duration and physical self-awareness into the process of perception.