Brice Malden: “Nature is a huge influence. Nature is reality. We painters deal with this weird aspect of reality. Every painting you make, you really want it to be a real thing, not just a real painting, and you’re always sort of hoping for this weird kind of apotheosis, where it all comes together”. (Source: interview Josef Helferstein with Brice Marden, Kunstmuseum Basel).

The centuries old discussion about the relationship between arts and nature summarized by a great artist.

The exhibition Brice Marden Inner Space features more than one hundred works by Brice Marden (1938) from between 1972 and 2019. The presentation includes works on paper and paintings from the artist’s own collection, some of which have never been on public display. The American artist emerged in the 1960s with monochrome paintings and drawings informed by strong emotions.

His art melded two fundamental positions in the modernist painterly tradition: Abstract Expressionism and a reduction to the essential, which lends his work at least an outward resemblance to Minimalism.

In Inner Space, the museum showcases a body of work that relates to the foci of American art after 1960 of the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel (the public art collection of the City of Basel).

The monochrome panels that Marden created into the 1970s evolved a few years later into complex engagements with surface and color in diptychs and large-format multipart pictures that may be read as landscapes and architectures.

By presenting graphic series and paintings side by side, the exhibition illuminates his working methods. Its point of departure is a phase in his career whose origins lie in Basel.

The artist made a close study of the city and its culture for seven years (1978-1985) when he participated in a competition to design new windows for the apse of the Basel Cathedral. The exhibition includes selected studies for the project as well as a number of related Window Paintings.

These years proved a watershed for Marden, laying the foundation for his subsequent creative evolution. He focused on Asian calligraphy and poetry. These works mark the beginning of a new direction in Marden’s oeuvre.

In the mid-1980s, Marden began work on the Cold Mountain series, for which he took inspiration from the writings of the Chinese poet Han Shan, known as Cold Mountain, who worked during the Tang Dynasty period (618–907).

Energized color grids and convoluted lines begin to dominate Marden’s canvases and drawings, conveying a sense of motion through allusive forms. In later years, the lineaments consolidate, and color returns. A striking example is the monumental painting The Muses (1991–1993) from the Swiss Daros Collection.

The exhibition is an expanded version of Think of Them as Spaces: Brice Marden’s Drawings, February 21 – June 14, 2020 at the Menil Collection in Houston.