Susan Rothenberg

Susan Rothenberg

Untitled (Horse) 1979
Susan Rothenberg's painting
Born 1945 (age 7071)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Cornell University
Known for Contemporary art
Awards Rolf Schock Prizes in Visual Arts (2003)

Susan Rothenberg (born 1945) is an American contemporary painter who lives and works in New Mexico, USA.

Early life and education

Rothenberg was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1945. In 1966 she graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. In 1967 she went to Washington, DC and studied at George Washington University and the Corcoran Museum School.[1] In 1969 she moved to New York.


Rothenberg’s first solo exhibition in New York in 1975 was at the 112 Greene Street Gallery. Consisting of three large-scale paintings of horses, it was heralded for introducing imagery into minimalist abstraction, while bringing a new sensitivity to figuration. Critic Peter Schjeldahl called the show "a eureka," stating that "the large format of the pictures was a gesture of ambition," and that "the mere reference to something really existing was astonishing."

Since the mid-1970s, Rothenberg has been recognized as one of the most innovative and independent artists of the contemporary period.

In 2010, New York Times art critic David Belcher wrote that comparisons between Rothenberg and Georgia O'Keeffe had "become hard to avoid."[2] From her early years in SoHo through her move to New Mexico's desert landscape, Rothenberg has remained as influenced and challenged by her physical surroundings as she is by artistic issues and personal experiences. In addition to her earliest horse paintings, Rothenberg has taken on numerous forms as subject matter, such as dancing figures, heads and bodies, animals, and atmospheric landscapes. Rothenberg's visceral canvases have continued to evolve, as she explores the boundary between figural representation and abstraction; her work also examines the role of color and light, and the translation of her personal experience to a painterly surface.

Later career

Although best known as a painter, Rothenberg has also made crucial contributions to the medium of drawing. On the occasion of her 2004 exhibition of drawings at Sperone Westwater, Robert Storr wrote, "...fundamentally, drawing is as much a matter of evocation as it is of depiction, of identifying the primary qualities of things in the world and transposing them without a loss of quiddity. This at any rate is what drawing has been for Rothenberg."


Rothenberg has had solo exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. Her first major survey, initiated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Institute, and the Tate Gallery, London, among other institutions (1983–1985). Recent exhibitions include a retrospective organized by Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo (1992–1994), which traveled to Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Chicago, and Seattle (1992); a retrospective at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Monterrey, Mexico (1996); a survey of prints and drawings presented by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (1998); and Susan Rothenberg: Paintings from the Nineties at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1999).

Her 1976 work "Butterfly" was displayed in the Treaty Room of the White House during the Obama Administration.[3]


Rothenberg has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant (1979), the Cornell University Alumni Award (1998), the Skowhegan Medal for Painting (1998), and Sweden's Rolf Schock Prize (2003).

Personal life

Rothenberg was married to sculptor George Trakas from 1971-1979. The couple have a daughter, Maggie, born in 1972. In the 1980s, Rothenberg struggled with alcoholism and underwent treatment through Alcoholics Anonymous. She married the artist Bruce Nauman in 1989.[4]

Museum exhibitions


  1. Handy, Amy (1989). "Artist's Biographies - Susan Rothenberg". In Randy Rosen; Catherine C. Brower. Making Their Mark. Women Artists Move into the Mainstream, 1970-1985. Abbeville Press. pp. 258–259. ISBN 0-89659-959-0.
  2. Belcher, David (8 April 2010). "Another Painter in O'Keefe Territory". The New York Times.
  3. Shear, Michael D. (2 July 2016). "Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone". The New York Times.
  4. Plagens, Peter. "A Matter of Horsepower". Newsweek. Retrieved June 9, 2015.


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