I used to feel like he went way downhill but with more distance the career looks more of-a-piece, and Iím better disposed towards the newer stuff. I guess Iíve come to feel that way about a lot of artists as Iíve aged, the flip side being that I donít care as deeply about most of them as I once did. But Marden was overvalued at the beginning and is now maligned (in certain cirdles.) Gilbert-Rolfe made fun of Mardenís devotion to Dylan, but that didnít interfere with his critical appreciation. Charlie Finchís snarky Page-6-as-art-criticism may be fun but it would be a sin to let that sway you from pursuing an inclination to like the work. JGR may have blown Marden out of proportion, but at least he represents criticism that starts with really looking at the work and seeing how far that can take you. In the late 70s Jeremy described the art landscape as ďthe foothills of MinimalismĒ and said the problem for abstract art was to find a way to re-complicate itself that was not merely a matter of filling-in the empty spaces. In the end, maybe thatís all that really happened. Itís hard to believe how important Marden once seemed (though Finchís resentment is enduring testimony) but art moved in other directions, and what they used to call ďadvanced artĒ looks awfully traditional nowadays. Marden fulfills that tradition in a remarkably complete way, traversing in a single body of work the dialectic that was already established in early modernism between plane and fracture. Mardenís passage from monochrome to network relies on the same equivalence that existed between Matisseís ďflatĒ color planes and Cubismís relativistic reticulum, or between Newmanís endless red space and Pollockís equally infinite divisions. Even if thatís the only mystery abstract painting has to guard, itís a noble one, and should be propagated.
- alex 11-01-2006 6:12 pm

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