Brice Marden Study for the Muses 1991-95

“There are possibilities to make paintings that people don’t pursue. The whole post-modernist thing is about closing down possibilities—that’s just bullshit. What about magic? Okay, magic. You look at all the religious paintings very formally, you look at them historically, but what about Zurbarán painting something and just going out of himself. To me it’s possible. It was a big thing with the abstract expressionists. How you could go and paint and work but there was only a small amount of time when you really painted. And that was when you were in another state. You’re coasting right along, you’re not even thinking. It’s just all coming out. You’re the medium, and to me that exists. This could be an aim.” Brice Marden in conversation with Saul Ostrow, Bomb, January 1, 1988.

Brice Marden started his career as a “Minimalist.” However his monochromes with their heavy color and waxy surfaces felt different, looked different than the other art of the moment. Instead of the 1960s machine aesthetic these works were all about touch and romance. In the 1980s Brice began to reevaluate his connections to Abstract Expressionism and in doing so he created an elegant Abstract Mannerism. Of course there were discussions of Eastern calligraphy and mysticism, but these works actually contain a hard driven and elemental reappraisal of the spaces, color, forms and edges left unexplored by the AbEx painters.

“Then we get into a situation where the abstraction became very much, “What you see is what is there and what you see is what you get.” That whole Realist aspect. No bullshit. I used to get totally embarrassed because I’d make a statement or something and it would be this romantic stuff. In terms of what was going on at the time it was silly — or open to mockery. I always felt as though I was the Dumb Artist believing in this kind of stuff rather than being really smart like Stella and Judd. There was a rationale for everything they did and I didn’t have any rationale. I was still painting as an Abstract Expressionist.” Brice Marden in conversation with Glenn O’Brien, Purple, F/W 2012.

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