Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art & Art History

First Advisor

Albert Alhadeff

Second Advisor

Robert Nauman

Third Advisor

Deborah Whitehead


The Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, has long been recognized as a spiritual landmark and symbol of American postwar modern art. Blurring the boundaries between what is commonly considered sacred and secular, the Rothko Chapel functions as a space for non-denominational worship, private contemplation and meditation, a center for civic action, and as a showcase of the late work of Abstract Expressionist painter, Mark Rothko. The fourteen massive paintings that adorn the chapel space are renowned for their dark and ominous shades of maroon and black. What most visitors to the site do not know, there are six additional panels associated with the chapel but not included in the final arrangement. The alternate panels, currently on display next door at The Menil Collection, exemplify Rothko’s practice of creating alternates or "extras" for the three mural commissions of the last decade of his career, and have remained a mystery since the dedication of the chapel in 1971. This study not only brings the alternate chapel paintings to light, but also explores their potential role in the commission and impact on the space for the first time. In a fictional reimagining of the Rothko Chapel interior, alternate chapel paintings "Pair A," "Pair B," and "Pair C" are incorporated into the space in five alternate possibilities, encouraging scholars and visitors alike to imagine what could be.