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Dorothea Rockburne

(c. 1932)


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(1934– ).

Painter, printmaker, and installation artist. Known particularly for conceptually based, often spatially complex, geometric compositions from the 1970s and 1980s, she employed mathematical principles to determine rigorous relationships among shapes. Many of her signature works incorporate innovative folded elements. Born in Montreal, she was naturalized as an American citizen in 1991. She moved to the United States in 1950 to enroll at Black Mountain College, where she studied with Franz Kline, Philip Guston, Jack Tworkov, Esteban Vicente, and John Cage. In 1955 she relocated permanently to New York. Becoming dissatisfied with painting around 1960, Rockburne instead participated in dance events and happenings for several years. From 1963 until 1968 she also worked as an assistant to Robert Rauschenberg. As she returned to studio work in the late 1960s, she contributed to the prevailing minimalist aesthetic with spare, yet often materially sensuous paintings, drawings, and installations. Demonstrating also an affinity for process art, many of these incorporated industrial materials, such as tar and crude oil. In 1971 she began the series Drawing Which Makes Itself, using folds to define shapes and planes. She soon elaborated these in drawings and paintings incorporating color, along with creasing and shaped contours. In the late 1980s her work began to lose its constructivist tone as she accommodated more expansive, lyrical, and contingent formal relationships. In 1991 while residing in Rome, she embarked on a new direction, inspired by an interest in astronomy. For the most part abandoning geometric form, she brought color to the forefront. In the mid-1990s, she showed mural-sized paintings that engulf the viewer in celestial spaces, but many subsequent paintings and drawings revel, often on a fairly small scale, in materials and sensuous surfaces that need no justification in scientific theories.

Subjects: Art.


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