Recently, I finally had the opportunity to read the book that was published in 2006 in conjunction with the retrospective exhibition of Brice Marden's work that was shown in New York and Berlin during that year. I've always admired Marden's work and have read other publications about it, but this one is different. It's much more than a catalogue of work and it's well beyond being a good book about a painter—it’s actually a treatise on what it was like to be an artist during the change-over from the modern to the postmodern time period, along with the technical trappings and considerations that can accompany such a transition.
The text is a combination of essays from five different authors and covers both the struggles and the influences that Marden has experienced over the course of his career which began around 1963, the year he received his MFA. Quite surprising was the level of detail that was mentioned concerning his own studio practice such as the binders of his paint, i.e., the switch from wax medium to the terpineol that he now mixes his oils with.
Brice Marden's recipe for success as an artist lies in how he blends the most formal of influences from the West with all the formalism the East has to offer. The text brings forth this fact masterfully, never forgetting to mention that this artist's early work was heavily infuenced by that of contemporary Americans, while his recent paintings were produced under the overt sway of Han-dynasty tomb figures and garden rocks.
In its depth of coverage of Brice Marden, this book is unrivaled. In its account of the plight of an individual growing into an artist during a time of great aesthetic change, this book is vital.