A singular painter who has extended and refined the traditions of lyrical abstraction, Marden is a master of color and touch, from the subtle, shimmering monochromes of his earlier career to the calligraphic compositions that characterize the last three decades. Recently, Marden has turned his attention to the qualities of monochrome again, turning his gaze to the expansive possibilities of terre verte (green earth), an iron silicate/clay pigment. Terre verte came into use during the Renaissance, its greenish hue and innate transparency serving as a base to balance flesh tones; Marden first used it in connection with the Grove Group paintings of the 1970s (exhibited at Gagosian New York in 1991).
Since resuming his engagement with terre verte Marden has begun layering oil paint of this single color, focusing his conditions in order to heighten them, so to speak. Thus terreverte is both medium and subject for Marden as he explores its chromatic nuances while reflecting on the material exigencies of painting itself. For a series of ten new, identically sized paintings measuring eight by six feet, he has employed ten different brands of terre verte oil paint—from his favored Williamsburg to Holbein and Sennelier, among others—each a variation on the indefinable hue. The slow-drying paint is thinned and applied gradually to the canvas in many successive veils, building a surface of transparent yet intense color. The contingent residue of these layers forms a visible record of the painting process at the lower edge of each canvas.
With the new paintings, Marden will also exhibit Eastern Moss(2012–15), a smaller nine-panel work that prompted his renewed fascination with the complexities of natural color and human scale.