Dorothea Rockburne, Narcissus, 1985
Oil on gessoed linen
92 x 123 x 7 inches
June 19 – August 14, 2011
Born and raised in Montreal, Rockburne first studied at the city’s École des Beaux-Arts with Paris-trained painters Paul-Émile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle. Beginning in 1950, she attended the legendary Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, where classes with Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and, perhaps most significantly, the mathematician Max Dehn, had a seminal influence on her work. With fellow students Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and John Chamberlain, she thrived in the unique cross-disciplinary curriculum at Black Mountain and brought this sense of exchange and collaboration when she moved to New York, working in dance and performance in renowned early pieces with Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Carolee Schneemann, among many others. Rockburne’s work, with the use of materials such as cardboard, sheet metal, and crude oil, began to gain wide attention in New York in the 1960s; in 1971 she had her first solo exhibition at the famed Bykert Gallery. From this early minimalist vocabulary, Rockburne has expanded the discourse to include investigations of, among other themes, the Golden Section, the solar system, and the writings of Pascal—all seamlessly joined in an ongoing synthesis of rigorous intellect and ardent pursuit.
This first career retrospective will be accompanied by a 160-page catalogue with 52 full-color illustrations, published by the Museum and distributed by ARTBOOK | D.A.P. Essayists include the curator, Alicia Longwell, who will provide an overview of the artist’s profound engagement with the history of art. Three additional contributors will investigate salient aspects of Rockburne’s career: Stéphane Aquin, Curator of Contemporary Art, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, will write about Rockburne’s early years in Montreal and the cultural and artistic climate that shaped her future development as an artist; art historian David Anfam will examine Rockburne’s work within the context of art world movements and strategies of the 1960s, 70s and 80s; and Robert Lawlor, author of Scared Geometry: Philosophy & Practice, will probe the artist’s lifelong engagement with ancient knowledge. The catalogue will also include a selected chronology of life and work with artist’s statements.