Today @ AK

Susan Rothenberg

American, born 1945

© 2012 Susan Rothenberg / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Two-Tone, 1975

Acrylic and tempera on canvas
69 x 113 inches (175.3 x 287 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Armand J. Castellani, 1977

In the 1970s, when many painters stayed away from recognizable subject matter, Susan Rothenberg wanted to bring back references to the real world, but in a new way. She found her path in 1974, when she drew a doodle of a horse on a small piece of canvas. She knew it was, as she commented, “right out of the ballpark in terms of the New York art scene,” but she decided to stick with the horse and see where it led her. Rothenberg now views the horse as a kind of stand-in for the human figure, which avant-garde painting in the 1970s rarely depicted. But Rothenberg wanted something alive in her paintings. She has commented that, with the horse, “I was able to stick to the philosophy of the day—keeping the painting flat and anti-illusionist, but I also got to use this big, soft, heavy, strong, powerful form.” She also liked the tension it created—the horse is a three-dimensional being, but when covered by a line it becomes more two-dimensional, like the painting surface. Horses encompass numerous connotations and potential references, including instinct, power, and the natural world. But Rothenberg’s titles, such as Two-Tone, emphasize her statement that the horse is simply a design vehicle, a neutral form to which she was not particularly attached.

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