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An Energetically Charged Tangle of Lines
Deutsche Bank is Sponsoring the Large Brice Marden Retrospective at the Hamburger Bahnhof

Brice Marden, Dragons, 2000-2004
Private Collection
©2006 Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The largest Brice Marden Retrospective to date was a smashing success at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the MOMA in San Francisco. On May 12, the show goes to Berlin, with support from Deutsche Bank , to the Hamburger Bahnhof, the first European venue presenting the entire spectrum of Marden's work.

Brice Marden, The Seasons, 1974-75
©2006 Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The comprehensive retrospective includes more than 50 large-format paintings and many drawings from Marden's 40-year creative period. It begins chronologically with his subdued monochrome panels which were executed between the 1960s and the 1980s. They established him on the New York scene. He started making monochromatic paintings in the 1960s, in an era in which this was no longer revolutionary. By means of the proportions of his rectangular picture fields and parallel and diagonal lines, as well as the change between light and dark, he translates human emotionality into an abstract picture. Although the titles of his works often refer to phenomena from nature or landscapes – for example, the The Seasons created between 1974 and 1975 or his famous painting Nebraska (1966) – Marden does not paint trees or cliffs. His objective, rather, is to give visual form to an inner quality of things. In this relatively narrowly defined field of non-representational painting he develops a very rich vocabulary of form, bridging the gap between rational calculation and almost religious intuition. Such deep concentration requires a great deal of time, and the artist often works on a painting for many years.

Brice Marden, Study for the Muses (Hydra Version), 1991-95/1997
©2006 Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Brice Marden, Epitaph Painting 5, 1997-2001
©2006 Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Influenced by chinese calligraphy and poetry by Han Shan, with which he became acquainted on trips to the Far East, the graphic became increasingly important in his work starting in the mid-1980s. The series Cold Mountain constitutes an apex of this development. Using black paint, he wrote characters on a white ground. The lines penetrate one another, are constantly overpainted, finally becoming independent. The writing becomes a pictorial language. The expressive touch calls to mind the complex, energetically charged tangles of lines in Jackson Pollock's works. For Brice Marden, Pollock's assertion "I am nature" is one of the most important statements of modern art. And that is not surprising, if one compares the art and intellectual attitudes of the two American artists. In his Action Paintings, for which he let paint drop from the brush or directly from the tube on to the canvas, Pollock sought to give direct painterly expression to his elementary nature. A powerful energy is manifested in the intense gesture of his drip paintings, which he often created in a trance. An astonishing physical and psychical density is noticeable in the multilayered snarl of lines.

Brice Marden, 4 and 3 Drawing, 1979-81
Phil Schrager Collection, Omaha
©2006 Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

As opposed to Pollock, Brice Marden is not an inventor, not a radical renewer of art. Marden, who was born in 1938 (two and a half years after Pollock), views himself, rather, as a mediator between people and the invisible spiritual forces in them. In this role, he takes up the traditions of Modernism and Abstract Expressionism and reflects them in an up-to-date context. Just hoow he exploits and redefines the possibilities of abstract painting can be seen in two of his most recent works, shown publicly for the first time in the retrospective. The two six-part works of The Propitious Garden of Plane Image (2000-2006), on which Marden labored for years on end, form something like the essence of his creativity, and with their enormous dimensions the intensity of his painting can be apprehended with all the senses.

The Propitious Garden of Plane Image, Second Version, 2000-2006
Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
©2006 Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York