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The Magic of Math and Art: Dorothea Rockburne In Conversation with Philip Ording

The Evening Lecture Series is free and open to the public. With inquiries, please contact Kara Carmack at kcarmack@nyss.org.


Philip Ording has a PhD in mathematics from Columbia University and has been a member of the faculty at Sarah Lawrence College since 2014. Beginning in graduate school he served as a consultant to various New York based artists including Mary Ellen Carroll, Peter Coffin, Anthony McCall, and Richard Serra. His book, 99 Variations on a Proof (Princeton, 2019) is an exploration of and commentary on style in mathematical writing.


Dorothea Rockburne (American, born Canada, 1932)

Classical École des Beaux Arts training, combined with four years in the early 1950s at the legendary Black Mountain College, including art classes with Franz Kline, Philip Guston, Jack Tordoff and Esteban Vicente as well as seminal studies in topology with mathematician Max Dehn, opened Rockburne’s young painterly eyes to shape a lifelong commitment to exploration and innovation. In 2016 she received a doctorate in mathematics at Bowdoin College. Conjoining the two universal languages and expanding the discourse to include investigations of, among other themes, the Golden Section, the solar system, and the writings of Pascal- all seamlessly joined in an ongoing synthesis of rigorous intellect and ardent pursuit. Always an artist, specifically a painter, Rockburne embraced this fusion of art and mathematics emphasized and enforced by her experience as a Judson dancer physically moving in a gridded space.

Featured in the collections of MoMA, NY, MET, NY, Parrish Art Museum, NY, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, and Brooklyn Museum, NY, among many others (international and domestic) as well as countless private collections. Commissioned by The Foundation of Art and Preservation in Embassies (2007), Rockburne honored Colin Powell with a mural dedicated to him for the U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. Highlighted in a solo exhibition, Dorothea Rockburne: Drawing Which Makes Itself, at the Museum of Modern Art from September 21, 2013 to February 2, 2014 helped further honor Rockburne’s legacy. In May 2018, Dia Art Foundation opened a long-term installation of early large-scale works at Dia:Beacon. The Met Breuer’s upcoming January 29 – March 29, 2020 exhibition will feature Rockburne’s drawings in From Géricault to Rockburne: Selections from the Michael and Juliet Rubenstein Gift. Rockburne received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy (2009), Induction into American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001) and appointed to Vice-President for Art 2015-2018 on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship (1972).

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