Monday, November 27, 2006

Arts: Exhibit: Brice Marden Retrospective

Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings. MoMA through January 15th
By Chelsea Werner
      Spanning forty years and two floors of the MoMA, the minimalist drawings and abstract paintings of 68-year-old Brice Marden bring to mind the father of abstractionism, Wassily Kandinsky. Brice Marden’s first retrospective is more than a look at one artist’s work. It’s a landmark in documenting the progress of visual arts through and beyond Modernism.
      Marden’s work through the 1960s progresses from four-part grids of white, black and grey, to canvases cut in half by these same bleak colors, to solid color canvases that absorb as well as reflect light, such as Patent Leather Valentine (1967) or the soft-green panel of Nebraska (1966).
      Inspired by Jasper Johns, many of the monolithic images of solid greys, blues and other colors have the idiosyncrasy of an inch-wide strip of bare canvas at the bottom, where drips from the process of painting can be seen in contrast to the completed piece.
      The most crowded room at the exhibition held Marden’s newest paintings, displayed for the first time. The Propitious Garden of Plane Image, Second Version and Third Version (2000-2006) are each six panels long. The colored panels—some red, yellow, green and purple—interact with the winding calligraphy that Marden uses in many of his paintings from the mid ‘80s onward.
      Though given more complex images to absorb in paintings like 11 (to Leger 1987-88), the depth and meaning of Marden’s paintings can more clearly be perceived through minimalist works such as Star (for Patti Smith, 1972).
      At the preview, it was clear the audience was excited to see Marden surrounded by all of his artwork. Heads turned to look at one very understated man in a black beanie with grey hair, whose only comment was, “I used to own all these paintings once.”

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