Brice Marden (1984) Masking drawing 2 (Yellow and Purple) [Oil, ink, gouache and pencil on paper], 36.5x69.5cm.
Across the work of Brice Marden a mediated and considered line, searching for form exists; exploring materiality within a monochromatic painterly syntax. A powerful sense of geometry balances light, colour and expression to generate a significant sense of transcendence.
Amongst the ambiguity of the line within Marden’s work exists a strong subjectivity in the spaces and voids negotiated around a penetrating negative space. Within the lines is a relationship evocating balance and order demanding and commanding a sense of mediation and reflection. Marden’s methodical means of production within the medium of print resulted in many experiments with techniques such as Chine collé. After becoming more accustomed with the media Marden’s prints became dominated by linear forms examining an often natural energy.
Marden’s series of etchings; “Etchings to Rexroth”(1986) is a portfolio of 25 prints (see below for an example of the series), completed on copper plates, using a hardground etching and sugarlift aquatint, the composition is dominated by triangular shapes. As the prints progressed Marden moved away from a linear grid form towards a more integrated and balanced composition with shapes being layered and linked/networked. In many of Marden’s paintings and drawings media is applied using long sticks which evoke a sense of control, to bring this into the prints Marden drew on the copper plates using these sticks which introduced a theme of calligraphy to Marden’s prints.
Brice Marden (1986) 17 [Etching and aquatint
on paper], 20.2x 17.5cm, Tate, London.
Marden’s grids brought meaning and mediation to modernise printmaking to construct a sense of subtlety to create an entity to inhibit time and space to echo silence. This is perhaps echoed with Marden stating; “The rectangle, the plane, the structure, the picture are but sounding boards for a spirit”. From this potent sense of engagement lingers an interactivity that verges towards minimalist ideals allowing conceptual tendencies to percolate Marden’s work.
Guided by grid forms Marden’s practice inhibits similarities with contemporaries including Agnes Martin whose work often has a linear compositional syntax. Marden’s place in the public eye however was significantly greater than Martin, where between the end of 1966 and the end of 1974 Marden had 19 solo exhibitions in which to display almost abstract sublime works. This highlights a huge change in an artist who started making grid drawings by taking rubbings of tiles.
Brice Marden (1971) Grid I, [Etching] 51.4x75.7cm