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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Dorothea Rockburne: Painting by the Numbers | Discoveries - Robb Report

An exhibition at Dia:Beacon showcases the pioneering artist’s mathematically grounded work, as Robb Report reports.

Dorothea Rockburne; installation view. 
Photo: Dorothea Rockburne/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Dorothea Rockburne Studio. Bill Jacobson Studio.
“Although I am a painter, I also have a doctorate in mathematics and so the structure of my work is mathematical,” says Dorothea Rockburne, in describing her oeuvre. “When you get into higher math, it’s thrilling. It’s living in another world. The way that mathematics always uses the elegant solution, my work has an elegant solution aspect to it. But explain it, I can’t. That’s why I do it, because it’s not explainable in language.”

With their myriad folds and recognizable ratios, her torn paper and rough metal assemblages, particularly those from the 1960s and early 1970, reflect her numerical grounding—the Montreal-born artist, now 85, having tutored under noted German mathematician Max Dehn during her years at Black Mountain College, near Asheville, N.C. A half-dozen of Rockburne’s seminal works are now on view at Dia:Beacon in Beacon, N.Y., where they are to be joined by a suite of more recent works in 2019.

“At Black Mountain College, Rockburne began to pursue a new language born from the understanding of the presence of geometry in nature as well as human-made surroundings,” says curator Courtney Martin, adding that the exhibition includes the artist’s first “topological painting,” Tropical Tan (1967–68). The work consists of four sheets of pig iron that have been creased along the diagonal axes and partially coated with a wrinkle-finish paint. Rockburne, she says, has referred to this body of work as “visual equations,” underscoring its aesthetic and analytical aspects. In time, her painting practice would come to draw on ancient systems of proportion as well as astronomical phenomena.
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Source: Robb Report


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