Urgent Museum Notice

Dorothea Rockburne

A light-skinned older woman stands in the middle of an art studio. She has short, light colored hair and wears a long blue cardigan. Next to her is a table with paint bottles on it. Behind her are carts with paint brushes and art supplies, and a large abstract red and black painting on an easel.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Born in 1932

While bouts of pneumonia often confined her in early childhood, Rockburne soon became an avid attendant of weekend art classes at Montreal’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Her formal art training continued at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where Rockburne found her work influenced by peers Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and modern-dance pioneer Merce Cunningham.

In New York City, Rockburne participated in various dance classes and joined innovative performing artists Steve Paxton, Carolee Schneemann, and former classmate Rauschenberg in the Judson Dance Theater Collective. Rockburne’s first one-woman exhibition, held in New York in 1970, launched her career as a full-time visual artist.

Since then she has produced numerous series of largely monochromatic works known as painted structures, inspired by such diverse sources as the Golden Section, Italian Renaissance frescoes, and Mandelbrot’s ideas about fractals. Rockburne’s body of work is unified by her desire to reveal processes; her creations are neither drawings nor paintings nor sculptures, but reside amid these categories.

Rockburne has taught in New York, Maine, and Rome; won awards from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; and had important solo shows in Europe, Canada, and the United States, including a major 1989 retrospective at Brandeis University.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Dorothea Rockburne
  • Birth

    Verdun, Canada, 1932

Works by Dorothea Rockburne


Sheba is one of Dorothea Rockburne’s “Egyptian paintings,” a series of works evoking low reliefs through the interplay of light, shadow, surface, and plane.

As in most of the artist’s work, the title is simply a point of reference. Rather than a literal depiction of the historical Queen of Sheba, this work emphasizes the visual balance of related geometric forms and the...

Six folded white triangles resembling origami form a large geometric shape on a white background. Connected by a continuous line that bisects their center, the corners of each triangle touch and encourage the eye to move in a circular fashion.