Susan Rothenberg achieved recognition early in her career, breaking away from the dominance of abstract art and Minimalism in the 1970’s and garnering fame for her largescale, semi-figurative paintings of animals. Rothenberg takes an intuitive approach to painting, carefully discerning the visual implications linking figure to field. The refined simplicity of her palette and paint-handling is offset by the radical orientation of her compositions. Rothenberg’s subjects are constrained, cropped, and severed through simple geometric interventions as well as the boundaries of the canvas. 

Over the course of her career, Rothenberg has pushed the vocabulary of painting and created canvases of poetic beauty that celebrate the artistic process. She is considered a pioneer of New Image Painting, the title of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s landmark exhibition from 1978 that radically broke with the abstract and minimal art of the past decades.

Her approach reveals a deeply empathetic observer of life who dignifies the natural world. Some of the animals she paints, particularly her horses, are suggestive of proxies for the human form and humanity. The ambiguity of Rothenberg’s paintings erases the extralimital conditions of her subjects, concentrating the emotional and physical qualities of the work. Rothenberg’s personal iconography bears the contradictions of complex emotions, inviting the viewer to witness and share her sublime struggle for meaning.

Susan Rothenberg (1945-2020) was born in Buffalo, NY (US) and graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY (US) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1965. In 1967, she studied at George Washington University and the Corcoran Museum School in Washington, D.C. (US). Important solo exhibitions include a retrospective organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (US), that travelled to the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. (US), The Saint Louis Art Museum, MO (US), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL (US), Seattle Art Museum, WA (US), and the Dallas Museum of Art, TX (US) from 1992-94. She had a survey exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Monterrey (MX); an exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA (US); and an exhibition of drawings and prints at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (US) which travelled to the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI (US) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, NM (US) from 1998-99. A survey exhibition, Moving in Place, organized by Michael Auping at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX (US) traveled to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM (US) and the Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL (US) in 2009-11. Rothenberg’s work is included in a number of public and private collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (US); the Hall Art Collection, Derneburg (DE); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (US); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (US); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (US); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (US); The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (US); National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (US); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (NL); Tate, London (UK); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (US); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (US), among others.