Susan Rothenberg, With Martini, 2002The holidays are coming. And besides the generic holiday festivities that I'm looking forward to—too much food, torn wrapping paper, sitting at the "kid's table" even though I'm in my 20's—there is one thing that, for me, has become synonymous with the holidays: dominoes. It is a tradition that spans several generations in my family, and that moment just after dinner—when the dominoes hit the table, right before the good-natured trash-talk begins—has become just as much a part of my holiday season as the turkey dinner.

So it was with a sense of nostalgia that I viewed Susan Rothenberg's Dominoes Squared for the first time, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself looking at a familiar subject matter with new eyes. Is there any object more perfectly Minimalistic than a domino? Black and white, spots and stripes, two squares that compose a rectangular whole...it's hard to get more basic, aesthetically-speaking, than that.

But despite the simplicity of her subject matter, Rothenberg's presence still permeates her domino paintings in ways that are both personal and objective. In Dominoes Squared, for example, a smoldering cigarette gives an element of humanity to the scene, while With Martini provides the viewer with a "player's-eye-view" of dominoes held by unidentified, disembodied hands. Both paintings manage to create a sense of intimacy with an ordinary, every-day event in the artist's life, yet they also lack a central complete human figure to which we can attribute that personal perspective.

With Martini proved amusing when I began looking at the hands (and at the dominoes held within them) with a player's eye, counting spots and trying to determine which domino would be best to play next. But my attempts were thwarted, as many of the spots were blurred and their numbers difficult to identify in places...almost as if Rothenberg would rather us not focus on the individual pieces, but on the relationships and the experience created by playing the game.

The Modern wishes you and yours a very happy holiday season!

Author: 
Andrea D.
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