Rachel Rosenthal

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Rachel Rosenthal
Born (1926-11-09) November 9, 1926 (age 88)
France Paris, France
Nationality Russian-American
Known for Performance Art
Notable work(s) Pangean Dreams
Awards J. Paul Getty Fellowship, Vesta Award, Obie Award

Rachel Rosenthal (born November 9, 1926 in Paris, France) is an interdisciplinary artist, a teacher, and animal rights activist based in Los Angeles, California. She is best known for her full-length performance art pieces which she has toured, with The Rachel Rosenthal Company, to numerous venues both within the United States and abroad. She is also known for her smoothly shaven head. Theatres and festivals she has visited include: the Dance Theatre Workshop and Serious Fun! at Lincoln Center in New York City, the Kaaitheater (fr) in Brussels, The Internationals Summer Theater Festival in Hamburg, The Performance Space in Sydney and the Festival de Théâtre des Amériques, Théâtre Centaur, Montréal.

Early life[edit]

Rosenthal was born on November 9, 1926 in Paris, France, into an assimilated Russian Jewish family.[1] Her father, Léonard Rosenthal, was a well-known merchant of Oriental pearls and precious stones.[2][3] Her mother was Mara Jacoubovitch Rosenthal.[1] During World War II, her family escaped France, moving to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, via a short stay in Portugal. This journey inspired the creation of her piece, My Brazil.[1] In April 1941, her family left Brazil to settle in New York, where Rosenthal would later graduate from the High School of Music and Art and become a U.S. citizen. After settling back in New York in 1953, she fell in with John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Sari Dienes, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.[4] She undertook theater, art, and dance studies with Hans Hoffmann, Cunningham, Erwin Piscator and Jean-Louis Barrault.[1]

In 1955, she moved to California, and became involved with the art scene surrounding the Ferus Gallery.[5] That year she created the experimental "Instant Theatre," within the Cast Theatre (now named El Centro Theatre), performing in and directing it for ten years. She was a leading figure in the L.A. Women's Art Movement in the 1970s and co-founded the Womanspace Gallery, a cooperatively run gallery devoted to work by female artists, in 1973.[6] She is considered on of the "first-generation feminist artists," a group that also includes Mary Beth Edelson, Carolee Schneeman, and Judy Chicago. They were part of the Feminist art movement in Europe and the United States in the early 1970s to develop feminist writing and art.[7] Rosenthal began teaching classes in performance in 1979.[1]

Recent years[edit]

Rosenthal formed The Rachel Rosenthal Company in 1989 in Los Angeles, California. The company's repertoire deals with themes such as environmental destruction, social justice issues, animal rights, earth-based spirituality, in a hybrid form that combines voice, text, movement, music, video projection, and elaborate theatrical costuming, set design, and dramatic lighting, ultimately challenging the rigid boundaries that have traditionally separated performance art from theater.

In 1990, Rosenthal premiered Pangaean Dreams at The Santa Monica Museum Of Art for The L.A. Festival. In 1992, filename: FUTURFAX was commissioned by the Whitney Museum in New York. In 1994 she premiered her 56-performer piece Zone at the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts Wadsworth Theatre. Between 1994 and 1997, with her newly formed Company, she revived the "Instant Theatre" of the 1950s and 1960s as TOHUBOHU! and went on to collaboratively create DBDBDB-d: An Evening (1994), TOHUBOHU! (1995–97), Meditation on the Life and Death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Timepiece (1996), The Swans and The Unexpurgated Virgin (1997). Both Timepiece and The Unexpurgated Virgin premiered at the Fall Ahead Festival at Cal State Los Angeles. In 2000, at the FADO Performance Art Centre, Paul Couillard, in collaboration with the 7a*11d International Performance Art Festival, presented Rosenthal's final full-length performance piece, UR-BOOR, for two nights only.[8] At the age of 73, Rosenthal announced that she was retiring from performance to dedicate herself to her animal rights activism and pursue a career as a painter.

Rosenthal has lectured at Carnegie-Mellon University's Robert Lepper Distinguished Lecture in Creative Inquiry series, as a lecturer/presenter at the first Performance, Culture and Pedagogy Conference at Penn. State (1996). Rosenthal has also been a visiting artist at The Art Institute of Chicago, New York University, University of California Los Angeles, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, California Institute of the Arts, and at the Naropa, Esalen and Omega Institutes.

Artist Robert Rauschenberg has honored her in a suite of prints entitled Tribute 21. Recipients include Mikhail Gorbachev, R. Buckminster Fuller, Toni Morrison, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.

Rosenthal had a small part in an episode of the television series Frasier, specifically The Crucible in Season 1. As eccentric Seattle-based artist Martha Paxton, she attends a cocktail party in Frasier's residence as guest of honor, being the supposed artist of a painting Frasier is very proud of, only for her to tell him in front of all present the painting wasn't her work.



  • Tatti Wattles: A Love Story published by Smart Art Press, Santa Monica, CA;
  • Rachel Rosenthal (monograph of her work) published by the Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Rachel's Brain and Other Storms, an anthology of 13 of her performance texts published by Continuum and Nihon Journal
  • The DbD Experience (Chance Knows What It's Doing) edited by Kate Noonan, published by Routledge


  1. ^ a b c d e Chronology, established by Moira Roth with Elise griffin, Lorraine Lupo and Annika Marie, in Rachel Rosenthal, ed. Moira Roth, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, pp. 205-211
  2. ^ Rosenthal, Leonard. The Kingdom of the Pearl, Brentano's: New York, 1925
  3. ^ Rosenthal, Léonard. Au Jardin des Gemmes, L'Édition d'Art H. Piazza: Paris, 1924
  4. ^ Timberg, Scott (November 7, 2009). "Artist Rachel Rosenthal thrives on chance". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Jeremy (January 5, 2012). "Arrival Story: Rachel Rosenthal". Departures, KCET Los Angeles. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Rachel Rosenthal". Artists. FADO Performance Art Center. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Thomas Patin and Jennifer McLerran (1997). Artwords: A Glossary of Contemporary Art Theory. Westport, CT: Greenwood. p. 55. Retrieved 8 January 2014.  via Questia (subscription required)
  8. ^ "Rachel Rosenthal: Residency Project". Artists. FADO Performance Art Center. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "Searching OBIES for 1988-89". Village Voice. Retrieved 2007-12-25. 
  10. ^ laartcore.org

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