Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art, Evening

New York

Brice Marden
10 (DIALOG 2)

signed, titled and dated 1987-8 on the reverse

oil on linen

84 by 60 in.
213.4 by 152.5 cm.
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Other works in this series are in the following collections:
3, 1987-88
oil on linen
84 by 60 in.   213 by 152 cm.
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland

4 (Bone), 1987-88
oil on linen
84 by 60 in.    213 by 152 cm.
Collection of Helen Marden

8, 1987-1988
oil on linen
84 by 60 in.    213 by 152 cm.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (Gift of Gerald Elliot)


Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1988


London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Brice Marden, Recent Paintings & Drawings, April - May 1988, cat. no. 12, illustrated in color and black and white


Klaus Kertess, Brice Marden Paintings and Drawings, New York, 1992, pl. no. 10, p. 129, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

10 (Dialog 2) is one of a group of twelve paintings by Brice Marden that mark a significant threshold between his more monochromatic wax panel paintings of the 1960s and a re-introduction of the painterly gesture that lead to in the Cold Mountain paintings of 1988-91. Marden’s trajectory as an artist encompasses a dramatic re-definition of his painterly vocabulary in which he was uniquely successful in seemingly contradictory styles.  Marden’s ability to master both the opaque and the transparent, the monochromatic and the multi-hued, the non-gestural and the gestural marks him as an artist of true gifts and innate talent.  10 (Dialog 2) and its fellow paintings are a testament to Marden’s inventiveness and exploratory spirit.

In the 1980s, the opaque surfaces of Marden’s beeswax paintings miraculously dissolved into transparent planes animated with a tracery of gesture, finely balanced and evocative of Abstract Expressionism. Yet, line re-entered Marden’s painting through his drawings, beginning in 1972, with linear ink grid patterns in lattice-like compositions. In the late 1970s, his Basel cathedral window studies were a natural expansion of this motif, using colored inks in a tracery of delicate, crystalline webs to convey a new sense of light to his spatial compositions.

Marden’s geometric restraint was further loosened from rectilinear architectonics by his growing appreciation of Oriental art and calligraphy, beginning in 1984. That year, Marden was exposed to the most renowned forms of writing-as-drawing in Masters of Japanese Calligraphy, 8th – 19th Century, the first comprehensive exhibition of calligraphy in the United States. Based originally on objects in nature and life, calligraphy, over the centuries, ``went on to gather sophisticated aesthetic and pictographic complexity and refinement, [while] it retained the mesh of the traces of the kinesthetic movements of the hand with the patterns of the forces of nature.’’ (Klaus Kertess, Brice Marden Paintings and Drawings, New York, p. 41).  Uniquely suited to Marden’s new pursuits, calligraphy would be joined by Marden’s simultaneous study of the organic, elemental construction of seashells. Encountered during visits in 1984 to a seashell museum in Thailand, the volute shells which most fascinated Marden were formed by a process of secretion, evolving in a spiral of gradual growth and additive chambers. 

During the course of 1985 and 1986, Marden combined the curving organic forms of the shells with the sequential frontality of calligraphy to explore a method for balancing gesture with planar composition. Webs of triangular glyphs, originally arranged in columnar verticals in his Rexroth portfolio of etchings (1985), became the core motif for Marden’s paintings of the mid-1980s, and the gradual liberation of this construct into a more ``all-over’’ pattern, akin to organic growth and Jackson Pollock, is the triumph of Marden’s reinvention of his painterly vocabulary in works such as 10 (Dialog 2)

In the paintings of 1987-88, Marden’s rhythmic and dense network of web-like forms, including diagonals, takes over and fills the surface, breaking the autonomy of the grid and creating a more complex deployment of spatial energies. The sense of color and motion in works such as 10 (Dialog 2) transcends the frontal and static calligraphic roots of Marden’s new style, as the webbed glyphs of different colors and opacity blend and superimpose one into another, interweaving ``above’’ and ``under’’ into an organic whole, striving to burst beyond a single function or spatial position. The palette of 10 (Dialog 2) exhibits Marden’s deft touch at balancing hues as shades of red are punctuated with whites and grays whose transparency creates a veiled sense of shallow space.

The rhythmic ebb and flow of the linear, all-over composition echoes the painterly webs of Pollock, yet Marden’s linear interconnections and controlled overlappings are closer to Pollock’s more restrained ink drawings than the orgiastic layers of his enamel paintings. In 10 (Dialog 2), the architecture of the linear web is easily traced as one color ends where another begins, and the washes of color reveal the underlying structure of strokes that went before them, thus, engaging the viewer in a poetic dialogue revealing and concealing its painterly layers.

Contemporary Art, Evening

New York