You cannot simply leave the place as if it were any museum hall... Houston’s Rothko Chapel takes you by the throat and forces you to react; you cannot forget it even if you reject it. It is a thought organized in shadows, an otherworldly crypt from which one comes out more alive than ever, a darkroom where light becomes darkness and darkness becomes light. The Chapel is dedicated to no religion and to all religions, but above all to Rothko’s personal religion – the religion of light in all its forms, including its absence and including black. In the inner path traced by its octagonal geometry, it teaches us to recognize the colour of darkness, to tap into the other side of the obsessive Western idea that absolute truth lies at the core of the Sun’s brilliance: you need to see it but cannot look at it.
Alessandro Carrera teaches Italian Studies and World Cultures and Literatures at the University of Houston, in Texas.