Susan Rothenberg emerged in the mid-1970s as an essential link between the abstract and Minimalist painting of the 1950s and 1960s and the new figuration and expressionism that would emerge in the next two decades. Her artistic abilities had always been encouraged and, at an early age, she took art classes at the local museum in Buffalo, New York. She later studied sculpture and painting at Cornell University. Moving to New York City in 1969, Rothenberg became part of SoHo's community of artists, and occasionally worked as a part-time performer in productions by artist Joan Jonas. In 1973 she began making paintings of a single horse, a form that would occupy her for the next several years and become an early hallmark of her work. Progressively, she began to disassemble the horse image, depicting only parts of its anatomy. She eventually shifted her focus to disembodied aspects of the human figure. With loosely depicted forms floating unanchored on dark grounds, her work continues to navigate between figuration and abstraction, and she remains a creator of mysterious and ambiguous images.
Rothenberg pursued similar concerns in printmaking, an activity she began in the late 1970s. Since that time, she has made approximately seventy prints, including lithographs, screenprints, woodcuts, and intaglios. She feels most comfortable working in a reductive way, erasing and scraping to create an image from a black ground. Mezzotint, the intaglio technique used in Boneman, is particularly suited to this method of working. Although she occasionally opts for color, her work is most often executed in a palette of black, white, and gray. In Boneman, a mysterious drumming figure seems to emerge from a dreamlike darkness. Color is provided only by her choice of a wood veneer paper on which she has printed this monochromatic image.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 228.