Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Through Feb. 2

Two small rooms in the Museum of Modern Art currently harbor “a quiet, subtle stunner” of a show, said Andrew Russeth in For more than 40 years, Dorothea Rockburne has been “staking out territory in and around minimalism” with her stark drawings and sculptures. In a few, she has used no implements except folded carbon paper, and much of her work invokes complex mathematical concepts. But the New York City–based artist can also be “bravely raw and almost funky,” making liberal use of sketchy lines and smears. In an age when too many artists are reinterpreting minimalism in slick, soulless abstractions, Rockburne’s pieces point to a better way.

The museum’s pristine environment doesn’t do the work full justice, said Karen Rosenberg in The New York Times. Rockburne’s 1973 “floor pieces,” for instance, were meant to be stepped on, so that gallery visitors would extend the drawing process by tracking carbon dust across the floor. Though MoMA has instead installed them on platforms so that the works “seem to float against extra-bright white backgrounds,” their effect is bracing. With the 1971 wall relief Scalar, Rockburne actually gets her way. A “fortress-like piece” inspired by ruins in Peru, it’s composed of blocks of chipboard that were soaked in crude oil. Its peculiar beauty stands as proof that “mathematically derived art need not be sterile.” Indeed, “it can even be a gooey mess.”