Tag Archives: Mark Rothko

Gabrielle Selz’s ‘Unstill Life’ provides peek into the modern art world with its glamour, ambition, heartbreak

Gabrielle Selz and Peter Selz. Photo: Courtesy of Gabrielle Selz
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When Gabrielle Selz was growing up in New York in the 1960s, her house was filled with artists who have become icons of the time: Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, and Alberto Giacometti.

Selz’s father was Peter Selz – then a curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, a man whom the New York Times dubbed “Mr. Modern Art.” Peter Selz moved to Berkeley in 1965 to become the founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum, a position that allowed him to showcase West Coast artists. He highlighted Funk, film, and ceramicists like Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson who were not even considered true artists at the time. Peter Selz later became project director for Christo’s Running Fence, the 24.5-mile long billowing fabric fence that ran over the Marin County hills in 1976. … Continue reading »

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‘Red’: Spellbinding musings on art, philosophy, and nature

Ken (John Brummer) engages in a battle of wits with renowned painter Mark Rothko during the Tony Award-winning play "Red". Photo: kevinberne.com
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After its successful London and Broadway run, the powerful Paint it Red! is now at Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage. This stunning two-person play presents a fictionalized account of artist Mark Rothko’s (David Chandler) artistic, emotional and intellectual journey as he paints a major series of canvases for a lucrative fee. His assistant, young artist, Ken (John Brummer), has been hired to help with the project.

In 1958, the outwardly arrogant, but inwardly insecure Rothko was commissioned by Phillip Johnson and Seagram & Sons Company to paint a series of seven canvases for the upscale Four Seasons Restaurant in the new Seagram’s Building on Park Avenue. Quite a coup for an artist who had worked for more than 30 years in relative obscurity. Rothko ultimately painted 30 pieces from which the seven would be chosen. … Continue reading »

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Book explores impact of Berkeley Art Museum’s Peter Selz

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When Peter Selz arrived in Berkeley in 1965, the university only had a small art gallery to display its modest collection of art. Selz had been recruited from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to oversee the construction of a new, contemporary museum, the Berkeley Art Museum on Bancroft Way.

He did that and more. With Selz at the helm, the Berkeley Art Museum redefined many aspects of modern art and brought overdue attention to California artists.

Selz was already “something of a star,” when he arrived in Berkeley, according to Paul J. Karlstrom, whose new book, Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life, has just been released by UC Press. He had been one of the first curators to trumpet the work of Mark Rothko. His star grew even brighter in Berkeley after he put on groundbreaking shows such as “Directions in Kinetic Sculpture,” an exhibition of the Surrealist René Magritte, and Funk!, which showcased ceramicist Peter Voulkos, Bruce Conner, and other California artists. Selz, who had fled Germany during the Nazi regime, also created the Pacific Film Archive. … Continue reading »

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