Collections> Browse Brice Marden

Collections> Browse Brice Marden

Brice Marden
Holdings (12)
1 painting, 8 edition prints/proofs, 3 books

Wikipedia About Brice Marden

Brice Marden (born October 15, 1938), is an American artist, generally described as Minimalist, although it is difficult to categorize his work. He lives in New York and Eagles Mere. Full Wikipedia Article

essay Brice Marden, Walker Art Center Collections, 2005

Since he began painting in the early 1960s, Brice Marden has been passionately committed to abstraction. His reductive wax-and-oil canvases of the 1960s have often been associated with the taciturn geometries of Donald Judd and Carl Andre, but Marden is no Minimalist. He has always been very clear that his paintings have content—both formal and expressive—that springs from his sensory and emotional experiences as well as his research into the limits and possibilities of pictorial space. In a statement written in 1963, while he was a graduate student at Yale’s School of Art and Architecture, he explained: “The paintings are made in a highly subjective state within Spartan limitations. Within these strict confines … I try to give the viewer something to which he will react subjectively. I believe these are highly emotional paintings not to be admired for any technical or intellectual reason but to be felt.”1 Some forty years later, one could still apply this description to his work.

From his student days through the early 1980s, Marden’s paintings evolved from single-panel monochromes to works of two, three, or more panels, each painted in one of his unmodulated but luminous colors. The wax he mixes with the pigments gives his paintings a dense, weighty tactility and a glowing translucence;2 the colors evoke the visible world—water, skies, soil, plants, skin—and the scale is keyed to the human body. These references, while remaining generic for the viewer, are often very specific and personal for Marden: the yellow hue in Summer Table (1972–1973), for example, was suggested by the color of a glass of lemonade at a picnic.3

This expressive content is contained within a rigorous formal program. Until 1970, Marden had restricted himself to using vertical panels, although he had often combined several to make a horizontal work; in the Walker Art Center’s Untitled (1971–1972) he experimented further. “I wanted to try a large three-panel horizontal painting,” he has written. “I picked a deliberately awkward shape as [my] other horizontal paintings had an elegance and lack of confrontation. What I like about Untitled is that it confronts. I toyed with the idea of calling it Barrier but rejected it.”4 The warm, smoky tones of this work are related to those of his other paintings from this time, including the homage Three Deliberate Greys for Jasper Johns (1970).

During the mid-1980s, feeling the need for a fresh approach, Marden revamped both his method and his iconography after being introduced to Chinese calligraphy and poetry, especially that of the eighth-century hermit Han Shan (whose name means Cold Mountain). The resulting paintings, prints, and drawings are very different from the austere panels that preceded them. Composed of interlocking skeins of oil paint that pulse with controlled energy, they appear to have as much to do with the legacies of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning as with the discipline of the calligraphic arts. Making them, Marden says, is a quest. “One of the things about being a painter is that you’re trying to make things that you want to see. The way I would define painting is to say that it’s something we don’t know about, and as artists we move toward that something along a visual path.”5

  1. “Notes 1963,” reprinted in Nicholas Serota, ed., Brice Marden: Paintings, Drawings and Prints 1975–1980, exh. cat. (London: Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1981), 54.

  2. Although his paintings are often referred to as encaustics, Marden points out in a 1975 statement that this is not an accurate term because the primary binding agent in his formula is oil, not wax. Ibid.

  3. Interview with John Yau in Eva Keller and Regula Malin, eds., Brice Marden (Zürich: Scalo, 2003), 49.

  4. Artist’s statement, September 22, 1974 (Walker Art Center Archives).

  5. Quoted in Brenda Richardson, Brice Marden: Cold Mountain, exh. cat. (Houston: Menil Foundation, 1992), 74.

Rothfuss, Joan. “Brice Marden.” In Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections, edited by Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2005.

© 2005 Walker Art Center