BRICE MARDEN (1938-2023)
BRICE MARDEN (1938-2023)
BRICE MARDEN (1938-2023)
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BRICE MARDEN (1938-2023)
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Ivan & Genevieve Reitman: A Life in Pictures
BRICE MARDEN (1938-2023)

Nevis Night Drawing 3

BRICE MARDEN (1938-2023)
Nevis Night Drawing 3
signed and dated 'Brice Marden 2018' (lower center)
Kremer ink on paper
30 ¼ x 22 ½ in. (76.8 x 57.2 cm.)
Executed in 2018.
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Private collection
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2020
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Brice Marden: It reminds me of something, and I don't know what it is, November-December 2019, pp. 12, 85 and 87 (illustrated).
Eugene, University of Oregon, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Shared Visions, September-December 2020.

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Lot Essay

I don't think drawing is less than painting. The less you have between you and what you're making the better. The best drawing instruments are the ones where you are what your hand is. When the hand moves with the least resistance. Brice Marden
Throughout a noteworthy career that spanned over six decades, Brice Marden created a singular body of work that bridged the divide between the emphatic brushwork of Abstract Expressionism and the austerity of Minimalism. Never firmly seated in either camp, his affinity for Chinese calligraphy and poetic forms, as well as a humble reverence for the European Masters, instilled his dynamic works with a lasting power that will be felt for generations. Nevis Night Drawing 3 is a potent example of the artist’s ability to harness the intricacies of sinuous lines within provocative color combinations and elegantly draw the viewer into his own nuanced process.

Rich with heavily-applied pigment, Nevis Night Drawing 3 is a prime example of Marden’s hybrid approach to drawing and painting. Each in the service of the other, he combines the expressive color and surface of the latter with the linearity of the former. Using Kremer ink, a material with a shellac base which makes it much more glossy and bold than water-based inks, Marden composes a striking vision in red. One-fifth of the paper retains a clear white surface with only subtle marring of its field. This section serves as a visual anchor to the crimson expanse above and also as a ground plane from which Marden’s signature calligraphic marks grow like magical stalks shooting up into the air. The outer lines are rendered in a spidery black, but the central section exhibits tendrils of gold and a nearly vibrant orange-red that glows with molten light. In the spirit of his planar paintings started in the 1980s, the rectangular sections visible in this example contain more depth than one might originally realize. “Marden says he wants his painted planes to be ‘something like an insect caught in amber,’” noted Brenda Richardson. “It is evident that we should take that to mean infinite eons of time, transparent geological layers of time—stratigraphies at once wholly visible to the naked eye. Marden’s commitment to plane image has never wavered” (B. Richardson, “Even a Stone Knows You,” in G. Garrells, Plane Image: A Brice Marden Retrospective, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2006, p. 105). Showing us a record of time and the memories captured therein, Marden constructs a map for us to follow into the future.

Placing a larger color field upon a smaller, bare block creates a juxtaposition that infuses the entire work with a potential energy. The artist first grappled with this format in a large commission titled Moss Sutra with the Seasons (2010-15). In this work for the Glenstone Museum in Washington D.C., he left a strip of canvas at the bottom of each panel that inevitably recorded the drips, splashes, and marks of the painting process. Coming of age as an artist in the 1960s, Marden settled in New York in 1963 and began making monochromatic paintings that echoed some of the tenets of the nascent Minimalism. However, unlike Donald Judd and others of his ilk who eschewed references to the artist’s hand, Marden embraced emotional detail and its connection to the work’s creation much like the influential canvases of Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly. To this effect, in his early pieces, the artist would often leave a small margin at the bottom of the canvas where the bare surface could be seen as it was before being covered by a thick field. This highlighting of the hidden processes of painting, as well as Marden’s knack for emphasizing the shape of the support and the variations in the seemingly uniform painted plane, can clearly be seen in the current example. Painted nearly half a century after he first began his storied oeuvre, these subtle details create a through line between those early works and Nevis Night Drawing 3.

The acts of painting and drawing have been inextricable throughout Marden’s career. Especially in his more calligraphic paintings, the idea of line and its importance as a record of the artist’s hand becomes paramount to an understanding of the work's origins. "I don't think drawing is less than painting" he once revealed. "The less you have between you and what you're making the better. The best drawing instruments are the ones where you are what your hand is. When the hand moves with the least resistance. In a way, pencil is much less resistant than a brush" (B. Marden, quoted in Ibid., p. 294). This is an important note when thinking about Nevis Night Drawing 3 as it seems to be a painting material-wise and yet exhibits many of the same intrinsic qualities of a drawing. Using opaque inks, Marden deftly navigates the space between the two and leaves us with a hybrid musing. Completed on the Caribbean island of Nevis, the present example acts as a potent illustration of the artist’s deft hand and material acumen.

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