Susan Rothenberg’s United States

TURNING-POINT SHOWS in art come with a sense that you know everything about them sub specie aeternitatis. You feel you have a key to artistic significance past, present, and future. This is a mistake. The key has you. The knowledge imparted replaces you, the knower. It assumes your shape, fills your needs as fluid fills a mold. Overload of gratification blows the fuses of your intelligence. You must wait years for your historico-hysterical epiphany to cycle back as cultured common sense. Finally you discover that you were largely right, largely wrong, or nuts.

I was right, wrong, and nuts—and inarticulate and sent—when I saw three big, gawky paintings by Susan Rothenberg at the post-Minimalist-gangster alternative space 112 Greene Street in the autumn of 1975. Those were laboratory days. The show was a eureka. That the paintings were paintings, perfectly comfortable as such in a savagely

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