YOU NEVER know what is going to happen when you make
arrangements for artists to talk about their work. Sometimes they
have very little to say because, legitimately, they feel that they
have said what they want to say in their paintings or sculptures.
Others, whose minds and vocabularies have been tainted by the
convoluted language of the writers of the school for the
deliberately obscure, should let the work speak for itself.
But many artists use language creatively and offer listeners
genuine pleasure by introducing them to ideas and to worlds of
creativity and imagination. Brice Marden did that recently when he
gave a talk at the St. Louis Art Museum.A
Marden is not a great orator, although - with his deep-set eyes
and dramatic fashion sense (basic black with Mont Blanc pinpoint of
white) - he does makes an impression.
Speaking simply and intelligently, he took his audience around
a gallery where his work is hanging, going from picture to
picture,d talking about the ideas and impulses that informed the
pictures and, in general, about how he makes art.
The drawings, prints and the painting he discussed make up a
miniature retrospective of his work that will be at the museum
through Feb. 20.
Marden was born in 1938 and was reared in Westchester County,
New York. After undergraduate work at Florida Southern College, he
studied at Boston University and at Yale; the latter was, in the
1960s, as important as any art school in the world. After school,
he moved to New York City, which in the 1960s was as exciting as
any place could possibly be for artists and those interested in art.
Abstract expressionism, which focused the attention of the art
world on New York after the war, was still a force, and some of its
legendary masters were still around in New York in the '60s. But a
new generation was coming in, and the various ways in which its
members would go - Pop, Op, minimalism, conceptualism,
happeningsism - were making themselves known, often noisily, always
This was the New York that Brice Marden landed in in 1963. Soon
thereafter, Marden produced the earliest of the prints in the
When you hear Marden talk about his work you realize that in
spite of all the influences that have imposed themselves on him - a
melange that includes Botticelli and Max Beckmann and Oscar
Kokoscha, Josef Albers, Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, kgJJ his
contemporaries, Japanese calligraphy - what appears by Brice Marden
on paper or on canvas is singular.
The influences are evident as bitters are in gin or as saffron
is in the soup. They color, flavor, enhance. They are not, however,
Drawing is the essence of Marden. "I love drawing," he says,
and he says it not in the off-handed, diluted, bumperstickery way
we proclaim that we love everything from chihuahua dogs to our
fellow human beings, but more as a credo, as a fundamental fact of
his life and his profession.
The love is luminous. Sometimes you need to stretch the
definition of drawing beyond the conventional act of addressing a
plane with an instrument loaded with lead or ink or paint.
Sometimes drawing means rubbing or, as Marden says, removing line
and leaving a ghost, rather than actually marking. …