Cenotaph #4, 1972
Bronze and aluminum
6 ft. 4 in. x 20 in. x 14 in. (193 x 50.8 x 35.6 cm)
© Dorothy Dehner Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
Photo by Jerry L. Thompson
A painter and printmaker, Dorothy Dehner did not become a sculptor until she was in her fifties—four years after her divorce from sculptor David Smith, whose work is also represented in Storm King’s collection. Dehner created her earliest sculptures in wax, which emphasizes contour and rich textural effects, but in 1955, she started to cast her sculpture in bronze. In the 1960s Dehner began to explore a rectilinear formal language, and the scale of her works increased. Her horizontal works often suggest landscapes, while her vertical sculptures, notably Cenotaph #4, exhibit a distinctly totemic or iconic presence. Dehner created several cenotaphs—“empty tombs” or markers honoring someone whose remains are located elsewhere—placing rows of bronze, geometric shapes incised with symbols and designs inside a thin, rectangular frame. The open negative space of Cenotaph #4 exposes the surrounding environment, while the positive spaces speak to Dehner’s enduring concern for intricately worked surfaces. Throughout her long career, Dehner remained committed to abstraction, creating sculpture until her death at the age of ninety-two.