press release

Suellen Rocca

With Suellen Rocca’s installation in the Grafisches Kabinett, the Secession is pleased and grateful to be able to present the last exhibition the artist conceived herself and to realize her ideas posthumously. She desired to show a series of new paintings and drawings together with three paintings from recent years—Departure (2012), At Sunset (2013) and Night (2014)—in a setting that includes a folding-screen and a simple bed. Alongside of the show, Rocca also drafted a publication with additional drawings and sketches, published by Secession according to the artist’s idea as a fan-folded book.

Suellen Rocca enjoyed a long and distinguished artistic career, which began in the 1960s as a member of the Chicago-based group Hairy Who, also known as Chicago Imagists. Her oeuvre is characterized by a distinct personal iconography, which she continuously expanded in tune with and reflecting transitions in her private life. This pictorial grammar is apparent in her figurative drawings and paintings and draws on repetition, the use of a grid, text and icons. It is informed and inspired by a broad range of visual culture, from Egyptian hieroglyphs to Surrealism to comics.

In the last decade, especially, Rocca turned to a more inward view. In this period of introspection the artist showed a great interest in the unconscious and included dream imagery in her work. Symbols like boats, ropes, ladders, fish, or clouds recurrently appear in her work and represent different states of being, while icons of generic furniture—bed, table, chair—address domestic life, the inward home.

Suellen Rocca was born in Chicago in 1943 and died in March 2020. Besides her artistic practice, she was director of exhibitions and curator of the Elmhurst College Art Collection in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Artist’s books are published in conjunction with both exhibitions.

The exhibition program is conceived by the board of the Secession.