Dorothea Rockburne

Dorothea Rockburne

Born 1932

Artist Details

Birth Place
Verdun, Canada
Painting; Sculpture; Installation Art
Places of Residence
New York
Black Mountain College, Asheville, North Carolina, 1951–56; Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montréal, Canada, 1947–50
Retrospective Exhibitions

Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind’s Eye, Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, 2011; The Transcendent Light of Geometry, Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, New York, 1995; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, 1989; Bykert Gallery, New York, 1970

NMWA Exhibitions

Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1990–91

About the Artist

Contemporary artist Dorothea Rockburne, part of an influential 1960s circle of artists and performers, became known for austere, yet complex and referential works.

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.

National Museum of Women in the Arts