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Artists Susan Rothenberg
Susan Rothenberg Photo

Susan Rothenberg

American Painter

Movements and Styles: New Image Painting, Neo-Expressionism

Born: January 29, 1945 - Buffalo, New York, USA

Susan Rothenberg Timeline

Quotes

"[I am] trying to invent new forms to stand in for the body since I don't want to make a realist painting...I'm very aware of my body in space -shoulders, frontal positions."
Susan Rothenberg
"[The] complexities [of my art] involve perceptual and psychological memories based on real and imagined experiences...which are things that seem close to unpaintable, which is why I love painting."
Susan Rothenberg
"But I am a female painter, and certainly what I do is informed by a woman's brain. I'm not sure a person could see my work, not knowing who did it, and characterize it as a woman's. When I'm in the studio, I'm only a painter."
Susan Rothenberg
"The magic part usually frames itself in my head like a question, a phrase, like, 'What should be? What picture should be? Here.' And I don't know if I mean here in my studio, or here in this world. Sometimes, it comes up as, 'What do I want to do? What do I want to make?' But 'What should be?' is a kind of prior thought to letting an image come up. It will happen any time; it happens sometimes just thinking, 'I know what I want to do,' and then starting. I mean, I mess up the canvas as soon as I can with some sort of paint."
Susan Rothenberg
"And if I would use a word to define my current goals, after spending about two years trying to paint movement, light, and color, I have a desire for - diffusion is the word I want to use."
Susan Rothenberg

"I almost feel I can take the most banal subject matter and made a good painting out of it."

Synopsis

Rothenberg happened upon the subject of the horse in her paintings, not with the greatest of intent, but instead through a process of intuition. She does not claim political or social motivation in the creation of her pictures, and yet her paintings highlight the most vital urge of all, that of mark making as means to mimic and pay homage to the visible world around us. Indeed, it has often been said that Rothenberg's works are akin to giant cave paintings, and thus call upon our collective and ancestral memories. Thick layers of paint with flickers of other colors beneath also recall rich and elaborate icon paintings, and as such the artist's horse comes to represent an icon of American life. The horse is a creature - perhaps like the artist herself -tamed by human innovation but essentially wild by nature.

Having supported other artist's performances early in her career, for example those of Joan Jonas, once Rothenberg hit on the motif of the horse in the mid-1970s she became quickly well known in her own right, and particularly amongst Neo-Expressionist circles. Fatefully, when Rothenberg met fellow artist Bruce Nauman during the late 1980s he already owned a large ranch full of horses situated in the New Mexico desert. Captivated by the spiritual energy of this land, together the two artists moved there permanently and continue to live and work in the same place to this day.

Key Ideas

Rothenberg has achieved great success as an instinctive painter, holding on to a formal technique, pleasure in material, and a quest for proportional beauty in times when the pressure is always to be more political. Making colossal paintings, similar in their exquisite handling of paint to those of Agnes Martin, Rothenberg paradoxically uses size to draw our attention to the importance of quiet simplicity, to give due attention and space to relatively ordinary everyday musings.
Like the pioneering English photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, Rothenberg is particularly good at capturing motion through her depiction of horses. Departing from the Victorian representation of the creature however, the artist presents a less realistic and more a mystical depiction designed to uncover feelings of hidden and ancient spirituality.
She successfully uses the technique of sparseness and presentation of parts to ultimately give a more profound image of the whole. Sometimes there are separated limbs, floating eyes, and multiple heads strung across the artist's canvas and as such, fragmentation comments more acutely on the fluid and uncontainable nature of human identity.
In her relationship with Bruce Nauman, as artists in love, the couple created a truly alternative life together. Like Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz they became in tune with the land rather than simply taking from it (as is often the case with city living) and can thus be credited for showing a view of 'real' America. Interestingly, like O'Keeffe's, Rothenberg's paintings often have a 'flag-like' quality to them and arguably become more meaningful than the commonly known stars and stripes version.

Biography

Susan Rothenberg Photo

Childhood

Susan Rothenberg was born in Buffalo, New York in 1945 and spent most of her youth there. While her parents simply wished for her to graduate college and marry a man with a stable profession, such as a doctor, Rothenberg defied expectation and became interested in art from an early age. Her grandfather was a house painter and a family friend was an amateur artist, and together these influential characters, as well as frequent trips to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery stoked an enthusiasm for both painting and sculpture. Both in her youth and beyond, Rothenberg also loved rock 'n roll and dance, and she had professional training in modern dance and ballet.

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Susan Rothenberg Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Susan Rothenberg
Interactive chart with Susan Rothenberg's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti
Jasper JohnsJasper Johns
Philip GustonPhilip Guston
Georgia O'KeeffeGeorgia O'Keeffe
Frank AuerbachFrank Auerbach

Personal Contacts

Bruce NaumanBruce Nauman
Joan JonasJoan Jonas

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Futurist Dynamism

Influences on Artist
Susan Rothenberg
Susan Rothenberg
Years Worked: 1973 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Leon GolubLeon Golub
Eric FischlEric Fischl
Kate Walters

Personal Contacts

Bruce NaumanBruce Nauman

Movements

Neo-ExpressionismNeo-Expressionism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Kristen Osborne-Bartucca

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Dr. Rebecca Baillie

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Kristen Osborne-Bartucca
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Dr. Rebecca Baillie
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