Artwork made by Dorothea Rockburne comes from serious stuff.

Her art derives from math theory, Pythagorean Theory, astronomy, archeology, philosophy and medieval art history. The way this translates into art are the subject of the retrospective "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind’s Eye" at the Parrish Art Museum.

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"Prime Partition Three" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"Prime Partition Three" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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The traveling show was presented the Parrish Art Museum from June 19 to August 14, 2011. It opens at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada to the public on November 6, 2011. The show continues through January 12, 2012.

Despite Rockburne's serious influences, it’s the muse she follows when creating her art. "The way art works for me is a combination of thought, research, intuition, and very hard work,” she said in an interview with the Parrish. “I don’t think things out in words; instead I see it in my mind’s eye."

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"Narcissus" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"Narcissus" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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The exhibition is the first retrospective for Rockburne. More than 50 artworks spanning about 43 years are included in the Parrish show. Taken together, they reflect Rockburne’s use diverse materials and the ways her artistic vision runs through each.

Materials used include crude oil, cup oil, gold leaf, Mylar tape, wrinkle finish paint, India ink, steel, paper, plastic, gessoed linen, watercolor paper, Titanium acrylic, papyrus, ragboard and more.

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"Tropical Tan" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"Tropical Tan" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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"Extasie" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy The Parrish Art Museum.

"Extasie" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy The Parrish Art Museum.

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Rockburne’s trajectory for embracing her own muse, regardless of art trends, was already in place while studying art as young person in Canada, wrote Stephane Aquin in the catalogue essay "Dorothea Rockburne-The Formative Years in Montreal."

This continued when she decided to leave Canada and study at the famed Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Aquin writes. The liberal arts college was known for its avant garde approach to its art program. It's now known for the creative talent that converged there.

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"I Am Pascal" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"I Am Pascal" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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“Dorothea always followed her own path,” said art historian David Anfam during a panel discussion to open the exhibition. “She came to America not to move to New York City, which was the center of the art world. Instead, she came to study at the Black Mountain College..."

This decision mirrored the way Rockburne approached art, Anfram said. Her artwork bucked abstract expressionism, which was prominent at the time, he said.

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"The Plan of St. Gall" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"The Plan of St. Gall" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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At Black Mountain College, Rockburne studied with dance choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage. Attending school alongside her were Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and John Chamberlain.

After graduating and moving to New York, Rockburne continued the sense of artistic exchange and collaboration and worked in dance and performance with Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Carolee Schneemann, among many others, according to the Parrish.

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"Angular Momentum" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"Angular Momentum" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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It was at Black Mountain College where Rockburne studied with mathematician Max Dehn. Through his teaching, Rockburne discovered theories that would influence her life and art throughout her career, wrote Anfam in the exhibition catalogue.

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"Arena V" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"Arena V" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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Despite the proof-driven arenas that drive her work, Rockburne says possessing this knowledge is not necessary to connect with her art.

"You don't need to know the composition of water to be able to swim in it," Rockburne says in audio tour introduction at the Parrish.

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"The Conjecture" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"The Conjecture" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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Before viewing the show, doubts remained on whether I would need an art academic to explain the exhibition to my befuddled brain. Instead, I discovered Rockburne was right on two accounts:

A guide wasn't necessary.  Math can be beautiful.

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"Scalar" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"Scalar" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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Rockburne’s art moved me in ways I didn’t expect. While viewing the exhibition, I found my own trajectory. I found poetry in art. In dappled curves that seem to dance upon their white surface, I remembered the joy of stargazing and finding amazement in the vastness of the unknown.

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"Geometry of Stardust, Curvature" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

"Geometry of Stardust, Curvature" by Dorothea Rockburne. Courtesy Parrish Art Museum.

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Here's some installation shots of the retrospective at the Parrish Art Museum. All photography is by Gary Mamay and provided by the Parrish Art Museum.

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Walking into "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye." Installation photo courtesy The Parrish Art Museum.

Walking into "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye." Installation photo courtesy The Parrish Art Museum.

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A view of the second gallery in "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye."

A view of the second gallery in "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye."

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"Intersection" installed at the Parrish Art Museum.

"Intersection" installed at the Parrish Art Museum.

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Installation of "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye."

Installation of "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye."

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The walls of the Parrish Art Museum were painted the same color as those in Dorothea Rockburne's studio when these artworks were made.

The walls of the Parrish Art Museum were painted the same color as those in Dorothea Rockburne's studio when these artworks were made.

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An installation view of "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye" at The Parrish Art Museum.

An installation view of "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye" at The Parrish Art Museum.

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BASIC FACTS: "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind’s Eye" is presented at the Parrish Art Museum from June 19 to August 14, 2011. The show was organized and curated by Alicia G. Longwell, the chief curator for the Parrish Art Museum.

The 160-page catalogue includes 52 color images and essays by Stéphane Aquin, Curator of Contemporary Art, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, art historian David Anfam, Robert Lawlor, author of Scared Geometry: Philosophy & Practice, and Alicia G. Longwell, the Parrish Art Museum’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator, Art and Education.

Rockburne’s art is in collections held by the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum
of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Trust, The Corcoran Gallery of Art and others.

Dorothea Rockburne: www.dorothearockburne.com

Parrish Art Museum: www.parrishart.org

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: www.mbam.qc.ca/en/index.html

UPCOMING: "Dorothea Rockburne: In My Mind's Eye" will be exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from November 6, 2011 to January 29, 2012.

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© 2011 Pat Rogers and Hamptons Art Hub. All rights reserved.

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