In His Final Works, Brice Marden Found Freedom

Dated between 2020 and 2023, the artworks in Brice Marden: Let the painting make you at Gagosian are the artist’s final ones. In 2017, Marden, who died this August at the age of 84, learned that he had rectal cancer. When asked about this, he told the New York Times in 2019, “[it] hasn’t made me work any differently. It’s just an extra thing to think about.” Marden, who has often been credited with rejuvenating painting in the mid-1960s, knew that painting and drawing were physical acts for him, the result of movements made by the hand, wrist, arm, and active body. More than 30 years ago, in a prescient interview with the artist Pat Steir printed in a brochure for the 1991–1992 exhibition Brice Marden: Cold Mountain at Dia Chelsea, Marden stated: “I am 5’8 1/2″, and I weigh this much, and I am left handed, and I’m a certain age. That has a big effect on what a thing looks like. The kind of mark I can make physically.”

And in a 2015 conversation about the Nevis Stele series (2007–15), Marden told the artist Matt Connors, “I’m getting to the point where I do things I ordinarily wouldn’t have allowed myself to do. Now I’m a little bit older, so I figure I can do anything I want.”

Featured image: Brice Marden, “Blue Painting” (2022–23), oil on linen, 72 x 96 inches (all images © 2023 Estate of Brice Marden / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York; photos Rob McKeever, courtesy Gagosian)

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5 Artists Offer Unique Takes on Contemporary Abstraction in a New Brussels Exhibition

What You Need to Know: Brussels-based Galerie Sept presents the group exhibition “Dialogues in Abstraction,” a brand new exhibition on view through January 21, 2024. The show features the work of five diverse contemporary artists: Katrin Fridriks, Lee Hyun Joung, Nikodem Szpunar, Nicolas Dubreuille, and Daniele Basso. The presentation marks the gallery debut of Fridriks, an Icelandic artist whose work focuses on the intersection of humans and natural forces, such as gravity. Her work is juxtaposed with that by Lee Hyun Joung, who mines both her South Korean heritage and traditional materials to create ink-on-paper works. French artist Nicolas Dubreuille works frequently in sculpture, creating works that relay his background in graphic design, and tap into the painting tradition of geometric abstraction. Also frequently working in sculpture, Daniele Basso, who hails from Italy, investigates the meaning of symbols and life through the material of mirror-finished stainless steel. Another newcomer to Galerie Sept’s program is Polish artist Nikodem Szpunar, whose Minimalistic, volumetric paintings convey his experience in furniture and product design.

Featured image: Nicolas Dubreuille, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Galerie Sept, Brussels.

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Celebrated and Unsung Histories of French Abstraction

In New York, shows of French abstraction are on the increase. Yet many reprise artists known here in the distant past: Perrotin exhibited Georges Mathieu in 2021 and gave over its entire space to Hans Hartung twice in the past five years. And twice in two years Lévy Gorvy (now Lévy Gorvy Dayan) has featured Pierre Soulages.

On the other hand, Ceysson & Bénétière has annually given its Madison Avenue gallery over to one artist or another from the historical Supports/Surfaces group, who were famous in France in the years following soixante-huit but never got much exposure in the United States. These include Patrick Saytour, Louis Cane, Bernard Pagès, and this past September, Nöel Dolla — the last a good example of that group’s playful, morphological dismantling of painting and use of unconventional materials, like his tarlatan substrate.

Featured image: Christophe Verfaille, “Untitled” (November 1994–December 1996), acrylic on wood, 11 1/2 x 8 x 1/8 inches (courtesy Galerie Buchholz)

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The Other Side of Rothko: 5 Intimate, Must-See ‘Paintings on Paper’

2023 has been the year of Mark Rothko. He is currently the subject of a landmark exhibition in Paris, which includes an impressive 115 paintings that redefines the celebrated Abstract Expressionist’s oeuvre. For anyone stateside who is experiencing FOMO, however, the smaller “Mark Rothko: Paintings on Paper” has opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It’s also a revelatory show, albeit less grandiose than the Paris survey.

Though Rothko is most often associated with majestic canvases, these more intimate paintings, which the artist regarded as finished works in their own right rather than preliminary sketches, reveal a new side to his practice. Alongside his archetypal, hazy fields of color from the 1950s and 1960s, visitors can see figurative works from the 1930s and semi-surreal experimental constructions from the 1940s. In some of these early paintings, soft swathes and unfurling pools of watercolor pigment sit flat on the surface of the construction paper, foreshadowing Rothko’s later anti-illusionistic style.

Featured image: Mark Rothko, Untitled (c. 1948). Photo: © 2023 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko.

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Steve DiBenedetto’s Art Embraces Incoherence

Two distinct but related artists seem to inhabit Steve DiBenedetto’s consciousness: the one who paints fibrous forms in oil and pigment and the one who draws shapes in colored pencil connected by networks of lines. Simultaneously meticulous and restless, he likes to push the paint around and discover what bodily form might emerge from its combination of malleability and resistance. Lines in different configurations join isolated forms in the drawings, bringing to mind mystical diagrams, complex circuitry, and impenetrable delivery systems.

I am going to begin here with DiBenedetto the painter. In contrast to gestural abstraction, which tends to be full of juicy, smeary brushstrokes that expand outward, the artist has found a way to compress his layered brushstrokes. Everything he does appears to be deliberate and tense, slow and keyed up. This quality merges perfectly with his gristly forms, where interior cavities and exterior skin seem to pass through each other. Conversely, the drawings — although clearly by the same artist — are constellations of circular and irregular forms connected by dense, rhythmic networks of swaying lines.

Featured image: Steve DiBenedetto, “Particle Ashram” (2022–23), oil on linen, 30 x 24 inches

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Marcy Rosenblat’s exquisite balance

Contributed by Adam Simon / In a November 2022 article titled “Between Abstraction and Representation” in the New York Review of Books, Jed Perl lamented the equivocating position that many contemporary painters take in relation to abstraction and figuration. In his view, what was once a philosophical battleground, with two strongly held opposing positions, was now seen as merely a choice of equally viable means. His article focused on two artists, Julie Mehretu and Gerhardt Richter – Mehretu for inserting representational imagery in what appear as abstract paintings and Richter for ping-ponging between figuration and abstraction. What Perl doesn’t mention is the rich terrain of indeterminacy that results when artwork hovers between abstraction and figuration. Marcy Rosenblat’s solo show “Undercover,” now up at 490 Atlantic Gallery in Brooklyn, is a particularly successful example.

There has long been a figurative/abstract spectrum and most contemporary painting falls somewhere on it, not exclusively at one end or the other. Modernist artists identified as pure abstractionists, such as Ellsworth Kelly or Anne Truitt, considered their own work to be derived from observation. An artist like Cecily Brown seamlessly merges abstract gesture and figurative imagery.

Featured image: Marcy Rosenblat, Split, 2023, pigment and silica medium on canvas, 48 x 50 inches

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Abstract Expressionist Painter Judith Godwin Finally Gets Her Due in a Monographic Exhibition at Berry Campbell

Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Artnet Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist or exhibition you should know. Check out what we have in store, and inquire for more with one simple click.

What You Need to Know: On view through November 18, 2023, Berry Campbell is presenting “Judith Godwin: Modern Woman,” a monographic exhibition delving into the work and practice of the overlooked Abstract Expressionist. Featuring 23 paintings and works on paper dating from between 1954 and 1959, many of the pieces on view have not been seen by the public in more than sixty years. Accompanying the exhibition is an 96-page illustrated monographic publication, with a primary text by editor of the Woman’s Art Journal Aliza Edelman, and contributions by Denver Art Museum Curator Emerita Gwen Chanzit and former Artforum publisher Anthony Korner. The exhibition coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Berry Campbell, highlighting the gallery’s program of promoting post-war American art and artists—and drawing attention artists who have been historically under-appreciated due to their age, race, gender, or location.

Featured image: Judith Godwin, Hofmann School 1953 10 (1953). Courtesy of Berry Campbell, New York.

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What if Judy Chicago Ruled the World? A Sweeping Survey at the New Museum Proves How Ahead-of-the-Curve the Feminist Icon Really Is

In a clever curatorial twist, there is a knockout show-within-a-show in “Herstory,” the compelling six-decade survey of the feminist icon Judy Chicago which opened at the New Museum in New York today. Amid floors devoted solely to Chicago’s work, one section, entitled “The City of Ladies,” places her works in dialogue with those of other women artists from across the centuries, from Hilma af Klint to Frida Kahlo.

This curatorial vignette is worth the price of admission in and of itself and underscores larger tendencies in the artist’s practice. Chicago’s hard-to-quantify oeuvre is defined by her broad buckshot scope (and laser-sharp aim)—she is the chameleonic embodiment of a group show. Colored smoke, fireworks, airbrushed car hoods, sculpture, needlepoint, performance, photography, ceramics—the list of mediums she’s mastered goes on and on.

Featured Image: Judy Chicago, Evening Fan (1971). Courtesy of the artist. Collection Jay Franke and David Herro, Miami Beach, FL

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What to Do With Our Anger?

Gandy Brodie (1924–1975) is one of the independent figures of the 1960s with whom the art world has not yet come to terms. He was a self-taught artist who grew up in New York’s Lower East Side, which puts him in a small category; almost no first- or second-generation Abstract Expressionists were born in the neighborhood, though many had studios there. Never one to be swayed by fashion, the art historian Meyer Shapiro championed Brodie and another outlier of the time, Forrest Bess. And while Bess has gradually entered the canon, Brodie remains on the cusp, neither quite in or out — a cult figure whose approach to painting and subject matter remains at odds with Pop Art, Minimalism, Color Field painting, and painterly realism, the celebrated styles of the 1960s, and today. His slow process often involved building up his canvases into uneven surfaces of smooth paint. He seemed to want to memorialize different sides of his hard-scrabble existence without sentimentalizing them.

Brodie’s subject matter ranged from tenement walls to flowers and birds’ nests, from testaments of endurance to expressions of fragility and vulnerability. His paintings of anemones could be sweet but they never tipped into the saccharine.

Featured Image: Gandy Brodie, “A Matter of Life and Death” (n.d.), oil on canvas, 23 3/4 x 20 inches

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What’s Left to Say About Picasso?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Picasso: A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn is the latest commemorative show in the Celebration Picasso 1973–2023 series across New York’s museums. A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn has received far less fanfare than the Brooklyn Museum’s It’s Pablo-matic, but they share the same dilemma: How do we find something original to say about Picasso in 2023?

A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn focuses on a single project. In 1910, Hamilton Easter Field (a painter in his own right now best known for his patronage) commissioned a series of 11 panels by Picasso to decorate his home library. The commission was never completed. This exhibition brings six paintings likely made for Field together for the first time with sketches and minimal archival material related to the commission. The works on display represent an early and experimental stage of Picasso’s Cubist work, one preoccupied with flattening forms into their component planes, seeking to capture three-dimensional objects from all angles. They share a muted, largely beige and gray color palette, without the distinctive kaleidoscopic aggression of late Cubism. From a distance, the earthy colors blend into a dull, muddy mass. It’s only up close that the textures really stand out.

Pablo Picasso, “Standing Nude” (1910)

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