Brice Marden at Matthew Marks Gallery

Brice Marden, Second Letter (Zen Spring) (2006-2009), oil on linen 96″ x 144″; courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

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A painter friend writes in:  “Saw the Brice Marden show the other day . . . there is a calculated spontaneity in the over-painted over-painting that is beyond arch.  It is really painful [to behold].” Anyone who thinks “over-painted over-painting” an awkward turn-of-phrase hasn’t seen Marden’s canvases in the flesh. Less a paint-handler than a manufacturer of veneers, Marden fusses over surfaces with deadening expertise. He’s long suffered complaints about his unerring elegance, but the new work is tasteful to the point of invisibility. Jackson Pollock risked turning painting into wallpaper when he jettisoned relational compositions for all-over skeins of dripping pigment. Marden doesn’t know risk: He aspires to wallpaper, to an art so refined it’s absolved from taxing the eye.

Click here for my thoughts on Marden’s 2006 MOMA retrospective.  As for Pollock: He was never as happy–that’s right, happy–as when working on paper.

© 2010 Mario Naves

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