Since the 1960s, Brice Marden has been making paintings, drawings, and prints that relate to both the painterly gestures of Abstract Expressionism and the intellectual rigor of Minimalism, resulting in abstract works that refer to such diverse subjects as alchemy, religion, and mythology. He first studied printmaking as a student and had an early job at a screenprint shop, giving him the opportunity to work in that technique. Later, at the invitation of publisher Robert Feldman of Parasol Press, he began to make etchings. He was inspired by his initial collaboration with printer Kathan Brown at Crown Point Press and has worked extensively in this medium, exploring its potential for subtle mark-making and surface richness and relishing the physical engagement it requires. To date, Marden has completed more than one hundred fifty prints, most of which appear in some sixty portfolios and series.
Dedicated to Marden's goddaughter, the portfolio 12 Views for Caroline Tatyana reflects a fascination with ancient Greek architecture that was sparked after Marden began spending summers on the island of Hydra. Here he captures the effects of sunlight and shadow on colonnades, and also explores serial formats and systems as he combines plates to create permutations and mirror images throughout the portfolio.
During the late 1980s Marden became interested in calligraphy, evident in Zen Study 3 (Early State) and Zen Study 6 (Early State). Based on poems of a celebrated Chinese poet named "Cold Mountain," it is made up of tangled webs and vertical gestures suggesting poetic couplets. The etching process for this print—sugarlift—allows for flowing gesture, which Marden created by dipping a stick in a sugar solution and drawing with it on a prepared etching plate.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Harper Montgomery and Sarah Suzuki , in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 202.