HOUSTON, Tex. – Just over three miles from TDECU Stadium, there’s a building that draws more than 60,000 visitors a year. That number might not seem like a lot, especially considering how many college football venues bring more people than that every home Saturday. Without any sort of signage, there’d be no way of telling exactly what this place was, or how special it really is. This is the Rothko Chapel. Commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil, the building was built in 1971 and features 14 enormous canvases by the painter Mark Rothko.
Inside the chapel, faith is based on individual perspective. And you are left to your own energy, good or bad. To stare inside one of Rothko’s paintings is to stare inside yourself at times, and that energy is transferred between the canvas and the self. To have an entire building envisioned by Rothko is to be overcome by that process, as there’s a reminder at every viewing angle.
In short, the Rothko Chapel can be anything you want it to be. You can walk out angry or tranquil, tired or refreshed, inspired or forlorn. It’s a place in Houston where nothing is decided for you, and your identity escapes your body the second you walk through the doors. It’s entirely possible to walk back out again stripped of whatever it was you were before.