During the 1970s, when many artists shied away from recognizable subject matter, Susan Rothenberg wanted to bring back references to the real world. In 1974 she drew a doodle of a horse on a small piece of canvas. Intrigued by the result, she began to treat the animal as a stand-in for the human figure. Rothenberg liked the tension the subject created, commenting, “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.” In Two-Tone, the innate power of a horse’s body is diminished in its representation as a neutral form. Looking at this painting we get the impression of the animal’s overall shape but, ultimately, are unable to determine any discrete physical characteristics.
Label from Menagerie: Animals on View, March 11–June 4, 2017