London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Brice Marden: Recent Paintings and Drawings, April - May 1988, n.p., no. 26-29, illustrated
Lausanne, FAE, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Sélection: Oeuvres de la collection, June - October 1991, p. 99, illustrated in colour
Marden’s style resides in the uncanny interstice between the mechanical and the expressive; each facet serving as a perfect foil for the other. An apparently depersonalised formalism is rendered via ink blots, irregularities and haptic traces. If Donald Judd made a point of rejecting Minimalism’s claim to spirituality, Marden identified a poignancy precisely in the failure of minimal art to remain devoid of it: “the rectangle, the plane, the structure, the picture”, he explains, “are but sounding boards for a spirit” (Brice Marden cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Brice Marden: Recent Paintings & Drawings, 1988, np). Enacting neither the reproduction of visual reality, nor the expression of emotion, nor the delivery of pure abstraction, Marden’s work effectively achieves all three of these functions. Indeed, in certain of his monochromes such as The Dylan Painting (1966), Marden deliberately leaves a small strip of the work unpainted. Drips of the paint from the surface above accumulate in this space, left bare to remind the viewer of abstraction’s bodily, human origin.
The present work was immediately followed by a series of Window Paintings, which also formed part of the Basel Cathedral commission. Part of the power of these works, as well as of Basel Drawings (Window Studies: #1, 2, 4, 5), derives from their realising the intellectual human urge – never quite understood, never quite satiated – to represent the transcendent. As John Yau expresses, the works “suggest a movement from the earthly to the spiritual, without arriving at an image of immateriality… From the outset of his career, Marden accepted the inevitability of being continuously thwarted, of never being able to arrive at a purely spiritual realisation. His response was to make fully considered proposals, which remain open and incomplete. It is this incompleteness, the ache of it, that haunts the paintings, the artist, and the viewer” (John Yau cited in: Ibid., n.p.).
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