Brice Marden - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Mary Boone Gallery, New York
    Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 1985, Untitled (#4) is a stunning example of Brice Marden’s elegantly minimal work directly rooted in the artist’s personal experience. The late 1970s and early 1980s marked a pivotal time in Marden’s life, as he embarked on several professional projects and personal travels that had a profound effect on his artistic output. In 1978, Marden was commissioned to design a set of stained-glass windows for the Basel Münster, a Protestant Cathedral in Switzerland. This project preoccupied his thought and artistic practice for nearly nine years, as he became fascinated with the possibilities of light, both in his designs for the stained-glass windows and in his own body of work. Beginning in 1981, and as exemplified in the present lot, Marden departed from the monochromatic mediums which he previously preferred and began working with terpineol, a solvent-like substance which he mixed with oil paint, in place of his usual beeswax. This new medium provided his works with a lighter, more transparent quality, as opposed to the more dense surfaces of his earlier compositions. The jewel-toned surface of Untitled (#4) is illustrative of this shift in medium, as the artist was able to achieve the notion of luminosity on an opaque sheet of painted paper. Ultimately, while the Cathedral commission never came to fruition, Marden’s output during these years was a direct reflection of his fixation on this project, as demonstrated in the present lot. In Untitled (#4), the vertical, rectangular shape of the paper and horizontal bands of graphite interspersed in the composition mimic the form of a window. Furthermore, the vibrant red hue symbolizes fire, one of the four elements of nature according to medieval alchemy. Similarly, Marden’s other cathedral studies, which he executed in blue, green, and yellow, reference the other three elements of nature – water, earth, and air.

    Untitled (#4) was also heavily informed by a life-altering journey, when the artist embarked on a nine-month trip to Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India in late 1983. As with the Cathedral project, this trip had a considerable impact on his art, which was intensely influenced by the Asian aesthetic in the years to follow. In Thailand, Marden began collecting seashells, particularly volutes, and took to drawing their heavily patterned surfaces which reflected the snails’ progression of growth over time. In the present lot, Marden utilizes graphite to draw a grid-like pattern on top of the red painted sheet, alluding to the repeated, linear patterns which he observed on the shells. The domestic scale and meticulous attention to detail in this work are thus emblematic of Marden’s obsession with these tiny volutes, which he studied at great length.

    Indeed, the visual effects of the present lot cannot be separated from the experiences Marden had during the 1970s and 1980s, making this work an intimate example of his overall practice. Though Untitled (#4) undoubtedly adheres to the artist’s abstract minimalist aesthetic, it is ultimately rooted in the memory of the Cathedral project and his trip to Asia, both of which are manifested in the work at hand.

  • Artist Biography

    Brice Marden

    American • 1938 - N/A

    Born in Bronxville and working between New York City, Tivoli, New York, and Hydra, Greece, Brice Marden developed a unique style that departs from his Abstract Expressionist and Minimalist contemporaries. Drawing from his personal experiences and global travels, Marden’s works demonstrate a gestural and organic emotion channeled through the power of color. By the late 1960s, Marden received international recognition as the master of the monochrome panel and, in the late 1970s, began exploring the relationship between horizontal and vertical planes. His practice is deeply informed by his knowledge of classical architecture, world religion, ancient history, and spirituality. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998, Marden is represented in notable institutional collections including the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

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Untitled (#4)

inscribed "#4" on the reverse of the backing board
oil and graphite on paper
29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (75.6 x 56.5 cm.)
Executed in 1985.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $471,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2018