New York

Dorothea Rockburne

Xavier Fourcade

As an abstract painter Dorothea Rockburne is in a class by herself. Going beyond the mere act of fixing form in space, Rockburne has found a way to a higher sentient realm in which constructive art is synonymous with heightened consciousness. Paintings like Extasie, 1983–84, Narcissus, 1982–85, Capernaum, Gate, 1982–85, and Guide, 1984–85, all featured in this exhibition, are truly breathtaking.

At first glance, the irregular geometries of these paintings appeal directly to our sense of reason. But the more we take stock of the harmony Rockburne makes of these shapes, with their multiple edges and corners and unusual color combinations (elements that would probably appear awkward in the hands of another artist), the more overwhelmed we are by the sense that something more is present here than immediately meets the eye. The viewing process is transformed, making a qualitative leap to visual meditation.

For example, it is hardly exaggeration to claim that a spiritual energy surges through Extasie. Once we understand the balance of the peaked top and the lateral, diagonally thrusting rectangular wedges, we begin to see how the precise measure implicit in the shape lends it a lilting sensation of weightlessness. The same is true of the color. After we have appreciated the complex value scale underscoring the relationships of blue and red, we in essence free ourselves to appreciate the spectral qualities of the pure pigments. In drawings accompanying these paintings, including watercolor-on-acetate models of the specific structures, Rockburne lays bare the logic of her method, but as in the finished paintings themselves, she reserves the secret of the mystery that marks her vision.

Ronny Cohen