Critics’ Picks

Brice Marden, For Blinky, 2011, oil and graphite on marble, 29 3/4 x 11 5/8”.

Brice Marden, For Blinky, 2011, oil and graphite on marble, 29 3/4 x 11 5/8”.

New York

Brice Marden

Matthew Marks Gallery | 526 West 22nd Street
526 West 22nd Street
April 21–June 23, 2012

“Timeless” is a clichéd adjective, particularly when applied to painting, but in the case of Brice Marden’s new works in his two solo exhibitions at Matthew Marks, it is especially apropos, referring less to the transcendent effect these marble paintings may have on a viewer than to the fact that they seem simultaneously anachronistic and contemporary. Formally, the fifteen paintings in the 526 gallery evoke Marden’s 1980s-era series of paint and graphite works on marble that are seen as transitional between his early monochromes and his later calligraphic paintings. Here, only minimal brushstrokes and pencil lines mark the surface of the marble, and the shape of the slab counts as much for the composition as the paint does. The tension between the material and the painterly surface of each work is key. Formal Marble, 2011, for example, as its title announces, is equally enamored with paint and with the object to which the paint is applied.

Ostensibly simple, these abstractions are also highly referential. The material recalls classical Greek sculpture, while the style, and even the titles at times, refers to classical Chinese landscape painting. The adjacent show in the 502 gallery exhibits one monochrome, Ru Ware Project, 2007–12, along with a blue-green shard of pottery from the Song dynasty, the color of which Marden mimics in the painting. If there were only historical references, the works might seem mannered or out of touch; two of the paintings, however, are homages to Marden’s peers Blinky Palermo and Sigmar Polke. Polke Letter, 2010–11, a trademark calligraphic abstraction on linen, continues Marden’s ongoing “Letters” series, whereas the marble painting For Blinky, 2011, which uses a similar palette to some of Palermo’s work, reminds the viewer that these works, which might otherwise feel withdrawn from the present, are responses to his contemporaries, making them not only meditations on the relationship between paint and surface but also dialogues between Marden and his generation.

This exhibition is also on view at Matthew Marks Gallery, 502 West 22nd Street, until June 23.