In 1966, the artist Brice Marden, who has died of most cancers aged 84, exhibited a canvas referred to as The Dylan Portray in his first solo present, on the Bykert Gallery in New York. Six years earlier, Marden had married Pauline Baez, older sister of the singer Joan. By means of his sister-in-law, he met a younger Greenwich Village folks musician referred to as Bob Zimmerman, and located him “a implausible man”.
It was 1962. “I had needed to make a portray for him, to place out into the world to assist his profession,” Marden recalled in an interview for the San Francisco Museum of Fashionable Artwork in 2015. “By the point I bought this portray completed, Bob [Dylan] was, like, very, very well-known. He didn’t want my assist.”
This was not the work’s solely mis-timing. The Dylan Portray, now within the assortment of SFMoMA, is a plum-coloured monochrome, 153cm x 307cm. It’s made in encaustic, a mix of oil paint and beeswax utilized by the artist with a kitchen spatula: Marden had discovered the approach whereas working as a guard at a Jasper Johns retrospective at New York’s Jewish Museum in 1964.
The Dylan Portray, although, has nothing to do with Johns’s proto-pop work of flags, targets and numbers. Its really feel is way nearer to the saturated canvases of Mark Rothko, though Rothko was a era older than Marden and the varsity of portray to which he belonged – summary expressionism – had, by 1966, been declared formally lifeless.
Nonetheless, Marden continued, shunning the varied types of post-painterly abstraction then modern in New York to make works whose goal was the old school one among calling up the chic. His work modified by increments, establishing their very own inner programs – “a number of guidelines, but no guidelines”, as Marden put it – after which shifting on.
By 1970, he was portray canvases resembling Made for Pearl, of adjoining panels of colors that each collaborated and subtly clashed. After learning at Boston College, the place he had met and in 1960 married Pauline Baez, Marden had gained a scholarship, in 1961, to do a grasp’s at Yale. Though he claimed to not have understood something of the course he took there with the former Bauhaus grasp, Josef Albers, Albers’s teachings on the interplay of color would appear to have left their mark.
The mix in Marden’s artwork of fixed experimentation and resistance to style quickly gained him a following. By 1975, the New York Occasions critic, Hilton Kramer, may write of “youthful painters, scarcely out of college, taking his work as a mannequin”. That very same yr, the 37-year-old Marden was given a profession retrospective on the Guggenheim.
Two years later, he beat off Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Joseph Beuys to win a fee to design stained glass home windows for the apse of the minster church of Basel in Switzerland. Though these had been by no means made, within the ensuing Basel Window research sequence, painted between 1978 and 1985, Marden’s palette modified from the subdued minimalism of his earlier work to a extra vivid one, formed by a brand new set of compositional units taken from structure.
It was a visit to the far east in 1983 and a go to to an exhibition of Japanese calligraphy in New York the next yr that led to a change in Marden’s work. He started to make massive ink drawings utilizing sticks, a few of them two metres lengthy, which he collected from the ailanthus timber outdoors his Greenwich Village studio. With these, he drew skeins of loops, their organisation primarily based broadly on the association of characters and couplets of Chinese language poetry.
In addition to drawings and etchings, this gave rise to what stays Marden’s most well-known sequence of canvases, the so-called Chilly Mountain work (1989-91), their title taken from the literal translation of the title of Han Shan, the Tang dynasty poet whose work had impressed them. For these, the artist used unwieldy, metre-long brushes, enjoying accident off in opposition to management to loosen up his composition. A piece resembling SFMoMA’s Chilly Mountain 6 (Bridge), with its sturdy foreground calligraphic sample echoed by a ghostly gray one behind, suggests the whirled surfaces of Jackson Pollock.
The vermiculate line turned a trademark of Marden’s portray for the remainder of his life, however it didn’t change into a restriction. His later work was marked by a brand new palette drawn from nature, and specifically that of the American north-east by which he had grown up. The center of three kids of Nicholas Marden, a mortgage dealer, and Kathryn (nee Fox), Brice had been born and raised in upstate New York. His childhood was spent within the village of Briarcliff Manor, trying down on the Hudson River.
“So long as I bear in mind, we lived in the identical home,” he stated in a 1972 interview for the Archives of American Artwork. In a discipline behind that home, he had, at 13, what he later noticed as a revelation. “I fell asleep and awoke mendacity in these reindeer ferns,” Marden recalled. “It simply appeared to me that once I awoke, I used to be completely different than once I went to sleep. I all the time took that as the purpose that I turned an artist.”
For all that, his first plan was to be a hotelier. “I’d utilized to all these resort administration colleges,” Marden remembered. “After which I stated I don’t wish to try this, I stated I needed to check artwork. My household was actually largely upset.” A few years later he and his second spouse purchased a resort on the Caribbean island of Nevis and opened a village inn in Tivoli, New York state.
These had been along with the artist’s Manhattan studio, a 400-acre farm in Pennsylvania, a home on the Greek island of Hydra and the property, referred to as Rose Hill, overlooking the Hudson at Tivoli. His work fetched the form of stratospheric sums usually related to previous masters. In 2020, one canvas, Enhances (2004-07), offered at public sale for £25m, simply in need of the best value ever paid for a Rembrandt.
In 2018, his largest portray, a five-panel work referred to as Moss Sutra With the Seasons, was hung in its personal chapel-like area at a non-public gallery in Maryland. Usually, it had taken Marden 5 years to finish. “The primary color down on this floor of spring is the color from winter, which is the previous panel, after which the primary color on the summer season is the color of the spring,” he defined to an interviewer in 2012, when the work was half completed. “I’ve to determine the place do I take it from right here.”
Within the yr Moss Sutra was put in in its gallery, Marden was recognized with most cancers. “I used to be afraid that [work] might need been my final, it had taken so lengthy,” he instructed the New York Occasions. He then set off on the brand new sequence of canvases, made in a inexperienced earth pigment referred to as terre verte, on which he was nonetheless working when he died.
Marden is survived by his second spouse, Helen Harrington, whom he married in 1968, and their daughters, Mirabelle and Melia; and by Nicholas, the son of his marriage to Pauline Baez, which led to divorce in 1964.