Archive for the ‘Rothko Chapel’ Category

Barack Obama and the Broken Obelisk.


One of the most moving sculptures I know is Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk.” A broken, darkened, Washington Monument tipped precariously atop a pyramid like the one atop the Washington Monument. I prefer the installation in Houston, in a reflecting pool outside the Rothko Chapel, to the one in Seattle or the one in the atrium of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Broken Obelisk was designed in 1963-64 and fabricated in 1967 in an edition of three. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 the work was dedicated to his memory.

Barnett Newman said, “The Obelisk is concerned with life and I hope that I have transformed its tragic content into a glimpse of the sublime.”

But one can’t stand in front of it and not be sad, not think of a life cut short, not think of how it might have been completed. How the nation might be more complete, were this obelisk not broken.

Watching Barack Obama gives me hope, for the first time since Dr. King’s assassination, that perhaps we can begin to imagine the broken obelisk healed.