Skip to main content

Fire Engine Red

Dorothea Rockburne

Artwork Details

Fire Engine Red
Dorothea Rockburne
wrinkle finish paint (oil) on aluminum
91 1/4 in x 86 1/4 in x 2 5/8 in (231.78 cm x 219.1 cm x 6.67 cm);91 1/4 in x 86 1/4 in x 2 5/8 in (231.8 cm x 219.1 cm x 6.7 cm)
Gift of the Lannan Foundation in Honor of the Pelham Family


March 28, 2009
Fire Engine Red is one of a series of works that Rockburne produced from 1966 to 1968 by applying an industrial, wrinkle-finish paint to sheets of metal, in this case aluminum. Rockburne applied the bright red paint directly from the can and dried it using a heat lamp. The painting’s skin-like surface was achieved by adding successive layers of paint without allowing them to mix. The tension between the rigid metal support and the once-fluid paint is echoed in the contrast between the wrinkled paint and the polished aluminum. Hovering somewhere between physical presence and optical sensation, Fire Engine Red suggests Rockburne’s interest in both the materiality of the work and in the interaction of the painted surface with light.

Subject Matter:

A minimalist piece, the subject matter of which is 1) the red color, from which the piece takes its name, "Fire Engine Red," 2) the effect on the color of the painting surface, aluminum, and 3) the texture of the painted surface, which was quickly dried and given a wrinkled texture with a heat lamp.

Physical Description:

Two large panels painted red panels of aluminum, situated against one another so that the seam is visible at center. A line of white runs along each panel's outer edge.

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.