Yesterday I saw the new Pace Gallery, which has sprung up in the back of the RA building on Burlington Gardens.  There have been many reviews extolling the fortuitous juxtaposition of Rothko and Sugimoto.  I do not contest this; the pair are very well matched, though using different mediums and temporally separated by several decades.  Rothko’s paintings are variations on a theme of grey and black, two rectangular colour blocks with a bare white canvas border around the edge (this would be hardly noticeable against the whitewashed walls, was it not highlighted in the press release as a Very Significant move away from the artist’s previous working method).  All were typical of his technique of layering paint to produce an intensity analogous to emotional profundity; black and grey, however, I found less effective than the characteristic red tones of his more famous paintings in achieving this.  In fact they were unremittingly bleak, devoid of any emotion but pessimism or despair – and this emotional narrative itself may result from a knowledge of the artist’s impending suicide.  Sugimoto’s photographs, though essentially also composed of black and grey rectangles, are more truly meditative.  The barely discernible ripple on the water speaks of nature and renewal, of space and possibility – the blurred horizon line of a future unknown but somehow pure and positive.  Unfortunately, though this monochrome exhibition should have encouraged a deep spiritual contemplation, the milling crowds that I had had to fight my way through all the way from Victoria, and down the Burlington Arcade, had banished any meditative proclivities I may have possessed, leaving only impatience.  I fear I spent more time glaring at the people impeding my view than looking at the art.

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