Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings


Brice Marden. The Muses. 1991–93

(American, born 1938)
Oil on linen, 108 x 180" (274.3 x 457.2 cm). Daros Collection, Switzerland

GARY GARRELS: We’re looking at I think the largest painting you’ve made, called The Muses. It’s a painting that you worked on for about two years. The muses were Greek gods who were the inspiration for the arts.

BRICE MARDEN: Their mother is memory. And the arts are various ways you remember things. And I wanted to make this painting with nine figures wildly dancing in the mountains of the Peloponnese. We have a house in Hydra that faces the Peloponnese, and the Peloponnese is where some of the great ancient classical Greek sites are. And this is a sort of acknowledgment of that inspiration.

GARY GARRELS: For me, this painting is a fusion of the great tradition of American Abstract Expressionism, and Chinese references and the Greek classical -- the three great cultures you’ve immersed yourself in.

BRICE MARDEN: It was also a response to the idea of the big painting. I had been seeing large contemporary paintings exhibited that I thought had no life, and I wanted to try and make big paintings that had a real reason for being that size, and had movement, rhythm, and that was one of the formal challenges.

And the colors in this painting are basically the Grove group painting colors, but they’re sort of just thinned out. You like to imagine like the muses as just like growing up out of the earth.

GARY GARRELS: The muses would be in an olive grove on a hillside.

BRICE MARDEN: (Overlapping) They certainly would. (Laughs)

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