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MoMA

DOROTHEA ROCKBURNE: DRAWING WHICH MAKES ITSELF

October 3, 2013  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Dorothea Rockburne: Drawing Which Makes Itself
Dorothea Rockburne. Drawing Which Makes Itself: Neighbourhood. 1973. Duralar, pencil, colored pencil, and felt-tip pen on wall. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of J. Frederic Byers III, 1978. © 2013 Dorothea Rockburne / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Dorothea Rockburne. Drawing Which Makes Itself: Neighbourhood. 1973. Duralar, pencil, colored pencil, and felt-tip pen on wall. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of J. Frederic Byers III, 1978. © 2013 Dorothea Rockburne/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

I’ve been intrigued by Dorothea Rockburne’s wall drawing Neighbourhood (1973) since I began working at MoMA. It was acquired by the Museum in 1978, just five years after it was first made, but has been on view infrequently since then, and I really wanted to see it in person. Images of a ghostly sheet of folded paper hovering above an intricate map of lines of varying weight and color suggested a work that completely engaged with the body and the space around it—a drawing that completely challenged everything we expect a drawing to be. Currently on view in the Museum’s Drawings Galleries, Neighbourhood does not disappoint—it’s a seemingly simple but incredibly powerful, beautiful work. Contextualized by Rockburne’s carbon-paper wall drawings, the series that culminated in Neighbourhood and which hasn’t been exhibited in depth in four decades, and other works from the MoMA’s collection as well as the artist’s own holdings, it speaks to Rockburne’s continued engagement with higher mathematics, her masterful control of a range of materials, and an admirable clarity of vision.

Above, Rockburne discusses the range of works included in the current exhibition Dorothea Rockburne: Drawing Which Makes Itself, on view in MoMA’s third-floor Paul J. Sachs Drawings Galleries through January 20, 2014.

Comments

I’m curious about the curatorial aspects of a piece like this. Are the parts on the wall off the paper preserved or recreated? Does the artist do it herself or is it recreated by the museum? If it’s the latter, are you following her instructions or working from photographs?

That’s a great question, Zagrobelny. Dorothea Rockburne was very involved in the installation of the wall and floor drawings in this exhibition, and they were executed under her direction, to her specifications, but with currently available materials. Beyond the exhibition, one of our curatorial goals is to make sure that this process is documented, and that her instructions are clear and understood, so that future generations of curators can install the works properly once we’re no longer around to advise!

I thought this was just a couple of lines an artist put together until I watched the video! Now I know this artist was thinking to put lines in a certain way.

What are the dimensions of this piece? Do they vary on each display?

Holly, the wall drawing Neighbourhood measures 107 x 150 inches when installed. As the work’s structure and execution is very precisely plotted and determined by the artist, there’s no variation in the size for different displays.

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