Dorothea Rockburne

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Dorothea Grace Rockburne (born c.1934) is a Canadian-American artist and member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Best known as an abstract painter, Rockburne has also worked as an actor, dancer, and performance artist.

Rockburne was born in Montreal, Canada. In 1950, she moved to North Carolina to attend Black Mountain College, where she studied under Franz Kline, Philip Guston, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Max Dehn, among others. Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and John Chamberlain were students of the college at the same time. During her studies at the college, Rockburne participated in what some historians consider to be the earliest happenings.

Rockburne moved to New York City in 1955 to pursue painting as a career. In order to support herself, she took various jobs, including a position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art helping to catalogue the museum's collection of Egyptian art. She also studied ballet at the American Ballet Theatre. In 1963, Robert Rauschenberg asked Rockburne to work in his studio as an assistant. She worked with Rauschenberg for five years alongside painter Brice Marden, while continuing to exhibit her work and participate in performance and dance.

In the 1970s, Rockburne's profile in the art world expanded as her work appeared in more prestigious exhibition spaces, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Stedelijk Museum. She exhibited in both the 1973 Whitney Annual and the 1979 Whitney Biennial, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972.

As Rockburne continued to exhibit widely during the 1980s, major museums began to acquire her work. Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art purchased works from the exhibition “The Way of Angels” at the Xavier Fourcade Gallery in New York, while the Getty Museum acquired Inner Voice, Study B. Rockburne turned to mural works in the 1990s, completing several major commissions in the form of wall paintings or fresco-secco.

In 2001, Rockburne was chosen to be a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Department of Art.

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