Moving along through the exhibition the use of color is explored further, with paintings made of two or more panels, diptychs and triptychs, creating beautiful color harmonies reminiscent of Color Field painting. The main impact of the retrospective is Marden's "calligraphic" paintings with its early beginnings in 1971, after the artist visited and then moved to Hydra, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Inspired by the land and history of the setting, his new work became looser and poetic. The work from this period was setting him up for his new style, a visual language Marden has been utilizing and modifying through the 80's 90's and present.
Marden's use of color became more neutral as the paint applications became more transparent. Paintings like the Cold Mountain series were reminders of foggy days in the wilderness when the play between tree branches and clouds of fog mix together obscuring and clarifying things simultaneously between foreground and background. Marden is one of many abstract painters who draw their inspiration from light, atmosphere, and other natural elements. Some the his paintings make use of a soft golden yellows that look like sun light breaking through the fog after a rainy day.
Brice Marden, Dragons, 2000-2004, ink on paper, 40 1/2" x 29 1/4", Private collection
Marden unleashes his use of color even more in his recent work, with rich reds, purples, and oranges. What at one time seemed to be natural light has now been replaced with "color light." Paint layers are more opaque leaving saturated color to reflect light its own way, with no connections to landscape. Even though the newer paintings don't have the misty feel of earlier work, the idea of nature is still present. Some the most recent work deals with the imagery of rocks; not representative but inspired by their shapes. Marden has also been inspired by Asian culture, especially Asian art. Dragons, an ink drawing/painting is a perfect example of that.
On November 20, I had the privilege to attend an artist talk with Brice Marden at the Strand. This was a very informal gathering as the artist, after being introduced by the Co-owner of Strand, Marden opened up the discussion by taking questions. It is here when I get to find out the meaning of "rocks" in his work. According to the artist, rocks were used by Chinese scholars in their studios as way to remind them of nature. And as mentioned above, his work is based on nature, not as "depiction" but as capturing the feeling of being in it; and about free association of energies like the energies of water and land used in Asian landscape painting.
Here I am standing next to Brice Marden as he signs the catalog for his retrospective.
On this occasion I wrote down a few quotes by Mr. Marden that I thought were right on point:
"Nature is everything but us."
"You take this colored dirt and make magic." (Talking about pigments)
"Andy Warhol is over appreciated."
"A work of art is a renewable source of energy." (Marden here quotes one of his favorite writers.)