Dia Art Foundation to Present Dorothea Rockburne at Dia:Beacon

New Exhibition Opens April 2018


January 17, 2018

Dia Art Foundation to Present Dorothea Rockburne at Dia:Beacon
New Exhibition Opens May 2018

New York – In May 2018, Dia Art Foundation will present a long-term installation of Dorothea Rockburne’s large-scale works from the late 1960s and early 1970s at Dia:Beacon in Beacon, New York. In 2019 Dia will expand the installation in Beacon with an additional gallery of works by Rockburne.

During this period, Rockburne adopted an approach to art making that was informed by her early training as a painter in Montréal and her studies in art, dance, mathematics, and philosophy in the early 1950s at Black Mountain College located near Asheville, North Carolina. As a painter, Rockburne developed a procedural form of art making; she manually manipulated both fine art and everyday or industrial materials that were easily available and affordable. Her work was informed by mathematical methods that inspired her process of dividing space and planes, and resulted in installations that incorporated the entire environment of the gallery, often in monumental scale. In doing so, she explored new possibilities for translating the mathematical structures, which she became engaged with while studying with Max Dehn at Black Mountain College, into her art practice. She also began to pursue a new language born from the understanding of the presence of geometry in nature as well as human-made surroundings. Dia’s presentation will feature one of Rockburne’s first such topological paintings, Tropical Tan (1967–68), which consists of four sheets of pig iron that have been creased along the diagonal axes and partially coated with a wrinkle-finish paint.

From geometry, she turned to set theory—the study of how objects and information can be organized numerically and symbolically—to arrange groups of materials and actions into divisions that explored questions of space, material, and physical experience. Rockburne displaced, folded, and tore paper, to which she applied common, industrial materials like crude oil, grease, and tar, creating surfaces that are encoded with the methods and processes of solving mathematical equations. While conceptually rigorous and often materially radical, these works feature richly textured and lush materials that index the artist’s actions, perceptions, and feelings and exert a bodily effect on the viewer. An insight as such, Rockburne has referred to this body of work as “visual equations,” a phrase that captures the aesthetic, evocative, and analytic aspects of both the work and the ways in which viewers will experience it.

Using set theory, Rockburne expanded her practice to include room-sized installations that actively consider the space of the gallery as a part of the artwork. As she explained in 1970, “I’m working in sets that relate to the whole room.” At Dia:Beacon, Rockburne will produce a new version of Domain of the Variable (1971–72), her most environmentally encompassing set-based work installed for the first time in almost fifty years.

“Set theory offered Rockburne new ways to launch her consideration of the spatial relationships between objects and their surroundings and she used this as the foundation for many of her works,” said Jessica Morgan, Nathalie de Gunzburg Director, Dia Art Foundation. “Her room-sized installations spatially and visually unfold a mathematical equation, demonstrating how her work is in opposition to the gridded structures of her peers. Of equal importance is her deployment of viscerally tactile materials that bring a bodily mark into this dialogue. Her work will bring even greater depth to Dia’s remarkable collection, and we are honored to have worked with Rockburne in realizing these historic works at Beacon.”

Dia’s presentation at Dia:Beacon includes three of Rockburne’s earliest works to incorporate set theory—Set (1970), Intersection (1971), and Domain of the Variable—alongside three signature works that use folding actions—Tropical Tan, Ineinander Group (1971–72), and Locus Series Etchings (1972).

Dorothea Rockburne
Dorothea Rockburne was born in 1932 in Montréal, where she studied art and philosophy before attending Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina, from 1950 to 1954. While at Black Mountain, Rockburne met the mathematician Max Dehn, whose tutelage in concepts including harmonic intervals, topology, and set theory were deeply influential to Rockburne’s art practice. In 1952 Rockburne participated in John Cage’s multimedia Happening Theatre Piece No. 1 at Black Mountain. After moving to New York City in 1954, she became involved with the nascent Judson Dance Theater, and later participated in Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy (1964), among other notable performances. In the late-1960s Rockburne began exhibiting paintings made with industrial materials and creating drawings from crude oil and graphite applied to paper and chipboard. Her works based on set theory, what the artist refers to as “visual equations,” were first exhibited in New York in 1970. Later phases of Rockburne’s painting practice draw on ancient systems of proportion as well as astronomical phenomena. Her work has been featured in two solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (1981 and 2013–14) and a major retrospective at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York (2011), which traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts in Montréal. Rockburne resides in New York City.

Dia Art Foundation
Founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is committed to advancing, realizing, and preserving the vision of artists. At Dia:Beacon and Dia:Chelsea in Beacon and New York City, Dia fulfills its mission by commissioning new projects, organizing temporary exhibitions, displaying its collection of art from the 1960s and 1970s, and presenting programs of public engagement. Dia also maintains several long-term sites including: Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, which was inaugurated at Documenta 7 in 1982), all of which are located in New York City; the Dan Flavin Art Institute (established in 1983) in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in western New Mexico; Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) in Great Salt Lake, Utah; and De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany.

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For additional information or materials, contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, press@diaart.org or 212 293 5518