The color of Grove Group, I was inspired by a stand of olive trees Marden saw in Greece. Working in a sensuous mix of oil paint and wax, he created an opaque and dense surface of substance and mass. At the same time, the painting seems weightless and luminescent—as if in building up the surface Marden trapped light within its layers. This painting is part of a series of five monochrome panels in related colors. While the modular, methodical design recalls strategies of Minimalism, Marden considers this painting to be "highly emotional."
Gallery label from 2012.
The beautiful blue-gray-green of Grove Group, I was inspired by the colors Marden saw in a stand of olive trees in Greece, and he has described works like this one as referring to nature. Yet this monochromatic painting is far from the "window on the world" of the conventional landscape, and even from the sense that many abstract pictures allow of opening onto another space. Working in a sensuous mix of oil paint and wax, Marden creates a surface of substance and mass, opaque and dense. At the same time, that mass seems weightless, that density luminescent: it is as if, in carefully building up the surface, Marden had been able to trap within its layers the light that saw its making.
The painting comes from a series of five, dating from 1973-76. In each of the other four works, monochrome panels, in different but related colors, abut to produce an overall format of the same size and shape as the single-panel Grove Group, I. This modular and methodical design recalls the strategies of Minimal art, but few Minimalists would call their work "highly emotional," as Marden has. "The paintings are made in highly subjective states," the artist says, though he adds, "within Spartan limitations."
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 303.