Indepth Arts News: |
Paintings from the Nineties"
1999-11-18 until 2000-01-17
Museum of Fine Art
USA United States of America
Susan Rothenberg (born in 1945) first
gained critical attention in the
mid-1970s, when she introduced the
simple outline image of a horse into the
austere, canvas plane of Minimalism.
Like her peers, she considered the
materials of the artist, but rather than
denying the use of illusion in painting,
she instead explored the relationship
between the figure and the painted
ground. Since then, Rothenberg has
received international acclaim for her
paintings, drawings, and prints.
Because she has maintained a strict
reliance upon imagery throughout her
career and wrestled with the lessons of
Modernism, she has often been a
singular voice in contemporary painting.
At the same time, her physical approach
and gestural application of paint place
her in the tradition of an earlier
generation of American painters that
includes Jackson Pollock and Willem de
Kooning. In 1990 Rothenberg moved
permanently from New York to New
Mexico with her husband, artist Bruce
Nauman. The paintings she has
completed in this once-new environment
were stimulated by life on the ranch and
the light-filled landscape of her surroundings. This exhibition provides the first opportunity to consider this
body of work.
Normal activities on the ranch supplied Rothenberg with some of the subjects of her paintings, as in Dogs
Killing Rabbit (1990–91) and the two Accident paintings, on the theme of a rider thrown from a horse.
However, more important than the depicted scene is Rothenberg’s attention to the relationship between
the varying images in the final composition. She is calculating in her placement of the fractured legs, arms,
and faces scattered throughout these paintings. In contrast to the specificity of these earlier canvases, the
scenes found in the four panels of Spanish Dancer #1–4 (1994–96) suggest a story that remains
mysterious. Here, rather than simply creating a narrative, Rothenberg instead employs a perplexing
sequence that she constructs with figures and the manipulation of brilliant color.
In addition to continuing to explore color, Rothenberg has also considered viewpoints that vary from her
previous paintings. The position of the viewer changes from that of multiple points that suggest the
passage of time, in her earliest paintings, to being in close proximity to the subject, as found in her most
recent paintings. Her later compositions appear to be less about an event and more about a painter who
is attempting to compose something new with her developing skills and experience.
While stimulated by New Mexico’s environment, Rothenberg’s paintings from the nineties are—above all
else—reflective of the artist’s increasingly complex relationship with her medium. We are pleased to
present the first exhibition of these recent paintings by one of today’s most critically recognized artists.
Cheryl Brutvan is the Beal Curator of Contemporary Art in the Department of Contemporary Art