Artists & Designers

Susan Rothenberg (b. 1945)

Susan Rothenberg's visually and psychologically charged works have made an indelible mark on the art world in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. She began her career as a sculptor at Cornell University, amidst the rise of Minimalism and the declining popularity of painting in the 1960s, but soon realized she had "an ease with painting." In 1969 she moved to New York and there she painted in artistic isolation, as sculpture remained the dominant medium of the avant garde. By 1973, she was sketching horses, and the horse figure soon became the principal structural element in her work. Within the recognizable shape of this hulking animal, Rothenberg began to define her concepts of painting; how brush stroke, color, and space could form an expressive harmoniously composed work of art. "I am an image maker who is also an image breaker," the artist has stated.

Rothenberg's work was a radical break with the hegemony enjoyed by the minimal aesthetic at that time. Her rich, sensuous and flowing surfaces are restrained only by the insistence of the boundaries of the image. By 1980, she had abandoned the horse image, and instead concentrated on aspects of the human form. Beginning with heads and hands, she eventually moved to the whole figure, whose form simultaneously appears and dematerializes into the surface of her canvases. At this time, the artist began using oil paints (she had previously only worked with acrylics), which give the surface new richness and luminosity. Rothenberg's paintings stunningly combine the tactile with the visual, the intuitive with the rational. Her fragments of figures recall those of Giacometti, yet Rothenberg's intuitive method of painting, the disorder of her brushstrokes, and the vulnerability of her figures represent an intense personal expression.

Adapted from

  • DMA unpublished material.

Related Multimedia

in conjunction with Susan Rothenberg: Paintings and Drawings, January 30-March 27, 1994; speaker is chief curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and curator of the exhibition
in conjunction with Susan Rothenberg: Paintings and Drawings, January 30-March 27, 1994; speaker is chief curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and curator of the exhibition

Web Resources

Art21
Watch videos and read more about artist Susan Rothenberg.