Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings

Brice Marden. The Propitious Garden of Plane Image, Second Version. 2000–2006

(American, born 1938) Oil on linen, six panels, Overall: 72 x 288" (182.9 x 731.5 cm). Collection the artist. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York. Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

GARY GARRELS: In the last gallery of paintings, we have the newest paintings in the exhibition, paintings that have just come from the studio. Notice I didn’t say ‘finished.’ With a title, The Propitious Garden of Plane Image.

BRICE MARDEN: It’s a little pretentious, I acknowledge that. But I’ve been looking at Chinese gardens. Chinese artists were considered scholars, poets, and artists at the same time. And they would keep these rocks in their studios as sort of meditative references to the landscape. So I decided to make myself a propitious garden.

A friend of mine, who is a numerologist, told me my number was six. So they’re painted on six panels. They’re four by six feet. There’s all these six references. That’s the propitious part.”

GARY GARRELS: But you’ve also just distilled the spectrum into six colors.

BRICE MARDEN: Right. It’s supposed to have seven, but I didn’t understand indigo. So I dropped it.

So I have two complete paintings, but they’re each made up of six different paintings. The secret is to make them read as one painting.

GARY GARRELS: You begin with a monochrome ground, and then begin to build it up with layers of these linear forms. It goes from left to right.

GLENN LOWRY: Let’s look at the series on the left hand wall in this gallery. It begins with a red panel.

On top of the red, Marden adds the first linear element, purple. The other lines appear to be layered beneath it.

BRICE MARDEN: It goes purple, blue, green, yellow, orange.

GLENN LOWRY: As you move to the right here, the first linear element is always the color of the preceding panel. The order of the colors never changes.

BRICE MARDEN: The orange panel, … it goes red, purple, blue, green, yellow. And on the yellow panel, it goes orange, red, purple, blue, green. That’s the progression.

GLENN LOWRY: Now, turn around to examine the painting on the opposite wall. Here, you’ll find Marden reversing the progression.

BRICE MARDEN: Yeah, this is very, very formal.

GARY GARRELS: To me your work is very fundamentally about light and color, and the spectrum is how light is fractured and distinguished into color.

You’ve been working on these for about six years. They are a kind of grand finale for the exhibition. What an extraordinary journey, from the single grey-toned panels at the beginning, to these multiple panels of extraordinary brilliant color at the end.

BRICE MARDEN: It’s the finale of this show, but I’m also thinking in terms like the paintings I make after this aren’t going to be anything like these. Hopefully. But who knows?

GLENN LOWRY: Brice Marden is equally celebrated for his drawings, which are on view in the Drawings Galleries on the third floor.

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