MAXWELL ANDERSON: Susan Rothenberg began making paintings of horses in the early 1970s, at a time when Minimalism dominated the art world and painting was considered old-fashioned, even irrelevant. Her use of representational imagery was considered a bold and influential move, which catalyzed other artists to follow suit.
The idea of the horse came to her unexpectedly, when she doodled the form onto a canvas. The artist has described her initial interest in horses as being motivated solely by formal concerns. Susan Rothenberg:
SUSAN ROTHENBERG: I never intended to paint horses for seven years. I have never been interested in what a horse really looks like. The first horse was just I thought what if the figure and the ground were the same color? Ah, and therefore I thought I would coolly do away with the figure/ground issue because if you make them the same color you don’t have that illusionistic problem that everybody was badmouthing in the Sixties when it was, you know, when painting was dead and everything.
MAXWELL ANDERSON: But as the work evolved, Rothenberg found herself considering the possible symbolic and psychological connotations to her intuitive form. As she explained, “In the early years, my formalist side was denying my content side. Eventually, I began tearing it apart to find out what it meant. It obviously became a vehicle for certain kinds of emotions.”