Daily Art Moment: Joe Goode and Dorothea Rockburne

Torn Cloud Painting, Joe Goode, 60 x 60 inches, oil on canvas. A square work showing a white canvas torn to reveal a deep sky blue canvas beneath it. The tears begin in the upper right corner with a small roughly crescent shaped tear and a larger irregular jagged tear that connects via a narrow, crooked fissure to a triangular tear near the center of the work. Three more tears are located below and another two slightly above and to the left. Smaller diamond-shaped tears appear at upper center left and lower left. The edges of the tears are ragged with the canvas fraying in spots. Shallow folds of loose canvas are visible as the material sags in spots. These create shadows in addition to the ones made on the blue canvas by the gaping holes.

After spending so much of the quarantine year interfacing with the flattened spaces of computer screens, I am anxious to rebuild the “muscles” used for close, sustained looking. Two works that I find compelling—and quietly subversive—can be found on the second floor of the modern and contemporary wing. Hanging right across from each other, Joe Goode’s Torn Cloud Painting and Dorothea Rockburne’s Saqqarah address reference, abstraction, and process. Each artist zeroes in on the painting canvas as an object to be manipulated rather than the surface that disappears under illusionistic colors and forms. Goode’s piece is two canvases layered atop each other; one is torn to reveal an underlayer. The jagged cuts come off as urgent and at odds with the calming blue tone. Rockburne folds gesso-ed canvases into precise geometric shapes that sit subtly off the wall. Look closely and you will see how she completes the work by marking the wall itself and claiming the architecture as connective tissue. I appreciate how Goode and Rockburne push the concrete qualities of materials and process into abstract realms of thought and feeling. Next time you go by on your way to the glowing Dan Flavin and the exuberant Frank Stella in the adjacent gallery, I hope you will pause and take a little time with these two.

Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Saqqarah, from the series Egyptian Paintings, Dorothea Rockburne, 69 ½ x 93 inches, oil, gesso, and graphite on linen. A series of white-on-white triangle shapes layered and outlined to create a wide diamond shape with an extra triangle protruding from its lower right edge. The larger diamond shape contains smaller triangles that overlay other diamonds and triangles. Graphite marks the canvases and the wall behind it creating more lines, diamonds and triangles, as well as an outlined cube shape.

Joe Goode (American, born 1937), Torn Cloud Painting, 1975. Oil on canvas. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Contemporary Art Council, 2007.15.

Dorothea Rockburne (Canadian, active United States, born 1932), Saqqarah, from the series Egyptian Paintings, 1979. Oil, gesso, and graphite on linen. Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund, 83.2a-h.

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