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Arts

Brice Marden and Greek Antiquity at the MCA in Athens May 20-August 29

ATHENS – As part of the exhibition series Divine Dialogues, American artist Brice Marden presents his work in dialogue with selected antiquities from the Museum’s permanent collections, as well as three new works created especially for the exhibition. Titled Brice Marden and Greek Antiquity and organized by the Museum of Cycladic Art in close collaboration with the artist and the curator and artist Dimitrios Antonitsis, the exhibition runs May 20 to August 29.

This is the first museum exhibition devoted to this renowned artist to be held in Greece. It features 44 drawings, paintings, marble paintings and notebooks that showcase a wide range of his artistic output, revealing his keen eye, abstract gaze and resonance with the metaphysics of ancient Greek heritage. His works are presented in dialogue with 16 antiquities selected by the curator in liaison with the artist.

In a career spanning six decades, Marden continues to fascinate viewers with the gestural simplicity of his paintings and drawings. His work draws from art’s long history, combining elements of Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, as well as ancient calligraphy and poetry. For more than fifty years, the artist has drawn inspiration from the Greek landscape and antiquity. His relationship with Greece dates back to 1971 when he first traveled to Hydra with his wife Helen, also a painter. Enchanted by the light and transformed by the “art of older civilizations,” they bought a house there two years later. They have since spent a portion of almost every summer there together. The purity of Hydra’s landscape deeply affected Marden, who draws inspiration from observing nature.

Some of the works on display in the Brice Marden and Greek Antiquity exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. Photo: Paris Tavitian / Museum of Cycladic Art

The 16 antiquities on display alongside Marden’s works were selected by the curator, in collaboration with the artist, from the Museum’s collections of Cycladic, Cypriot and ancient Greek art. Intended for daily, ritual or funerary use, these clay, marble and gold items span from the late 4th millennium BC to Byzantine times.

Exhibition curator Dimitrios Antonitsis noted: “I focused on tuning in to this esoteric game that Marden has set up, fifty years now, on Hydra. My litmus test for selecting these antiquities was for them to serve Marden’s balance act regarding surface, drawing and light. I am convinced that the ancient craftsmen of the exhibited art objects were in touch with the invisible and the transcendental – which is precisely how Marden works too: by creating a syntax of thought forms through astute observation and painting.

Visitors should experience this exhibition as a continuum across ancient Greece and minimalism. Even nowadays, in a cupboard in the artist’s home on Hydra, one can find groups of postcards of ancient Greek sculpture – their paper now faded and yellow with age – with captions in archaic language. In this exhibition I attempted to reverse the terms of the ‘cupboard’ in which Marden’s ancient Greek references are stored: The Stathatos Mansion becomes a ‘cabinet’ in which the works of the greatest minimalist alive are lovingly displayed.”

Exhibition Sections

Divided into sections based on choice of medium, the exhibition features seven marble paintings, including three new pieces. The most notable of this group of works is Hydra View, 2011–2012, a large marble diptych that for several years adorned the walls of Hydra’s historic Boudouris Mansion at Avlaki, Hydra.

Artist Brice Marden, artist and curator of the exhibition Dimitrios Antonitsis, and Museum of Cycladic Art Contemporary Art Program Advisor Αfroditi Gonou. Photo: Elina Giounanli / Museum of Cycladic Art

In the early 1970s, Marden started two series, Homage to Art and Souvenir de Grèce, in which he collaged postcards of art works and architectural monuments from Greece within drawn beeswax and graphite elements. Using a razor blade, he recessed a void so that the surface of the glued cardstock remained flush with the top of the drawing paper and thereby a flat plane.

Throughout his career, Marden has used workbooks to record ideas and images for future reference. Thus his workbooks from the early 1970’s reflect his travels to Greece, with everything from mundane details such as hotel phone numbers and addresses to studies of the mountains, sea, and light. For this exhibition, the artist selected eight notebooks from the 1960s and 1970s, overflowing with drawings and notes. One of these includes preliminary drawings for his monumental painting Thira, a series of paintings which resulted from his study of how doors and windows are kept semi-shut by the inhabitants of Hydra. Two related paintings gifted by the artist to his daughters are also exhibited: Thira Souvenir I, and Thira Souvenir IΙ, both 1980.

Two works incorporate organic material: Lingam on Eucalyptus, 1992, an ink drawing on a piece of eucalyptus bark from trees that grow on the ridge between Vlychos and Kiafa on Hydra; and Grove Addenda (Delphi), 1973, a drawing of graphite and collage of a single olive leaf taped on paper. These works suggest a shamanistic quality, in reaching abstract thought by connecting directly with nature.

Exhibited here for the first time, a series of charcoal drawings on Αrches paperl Water-Hydra (1-8), 1975, depict the artist’s observation of the waves surrounding Hydra.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in English and Greek.

Brice Marden was born in 1938 in Bronxville, New York, and lives and works in New York. His work is included in the collections of museums worldwide including Tate, London; Kunstmuseum Basel; Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Saint Louis Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa.

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