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Ba rba ra Mar ks Pain tin g(s) from Recollec tion


Barbara Ma rks P ainti ng(s ) fro m Rec olle ction

T he Pa intin g C enter 54 7 We st 2 7t h S tr eet , New Yo rk

May 22 –J une 16, 2018 C urat ed by R ebec c a A ll an + Bar bara Mar ks Essay by R ebec ca Al la n

Recollection No. 6 (Vermont)


“Within the means of abstract expression there are immense possibilities and it is a language with a power peculiar to itself. But the kind of painting which I find exciting is not necessarily representational or non-representational, but it is both ‘musical’ and architectural, where the architectural construction is used to express a ‘musical’ relationship between form, tone, and colour and whether this visual, ‘musical’ relationship is slightly more or less abstract is to me beside the point.” — BEN

NICHOLSON


Recollection No. 76 (Wyoming)


Ba r ba r a Ma rks : In t er s t ic es a n d Re c o l l ec t io n by R ebec c a Al la n

Painting hones our ability to perceive interstitial spaces, whether physical or metaphorical. In her intimately scaled, vibrant paintings, Barbara Marks explores this capacity to see the spaces between things, keenly attuned to the energy of visual juxtapositions. An artist whose process begins with a rigorous investigation of the world through drawing, Marks places singular importance on memory, and the discipline of being attentive to the things that surround us. With their source in the objects of daily life, the natural world, and the built environment, Marks’s paintings possess a concentration of form and hand-wrought facture that rewards careful study.

Clockwise from top: Recollection No. 22 (Stony Creek), No. 103 (Auvillar), No. 90 (Wyoming), No. 120 (Maitland), No. 101 (Auvillar), No. 113 (Stony Creek); Center: No. 21 (Stony Creek) 5


Barbara Marks: Painting(s) from Recollection, at The Painting Center in New York, comprises selections from an ongoing series that the artist began in 2016. Chosen from the 127 paintings that Marks has completed to date, they are (according to the artist) parts of “ . . . an aggregate composed of many more small-scale paintings that, when installed as a whole, assumes a monumental scale and, at the same time, invites intimate interaction.” On my first visit to Marks’s studio, in a coastal Connecticut village on Long Island Sound, I am struck by the range of architectural styles— Victorian houses alongside Modernist experiments against a boat shed chock-a-block with nets and watercraft—as we wind our way along streets that offer glimpses of the harbor and the mysterious Thimble Islands, an archipelago of glacial rocks in the distance. Stony Creek is distinguished by its pink granite curbstones, foundations, and seawalls extracted from the still-active Stony Creek Quarry. The quarry was a source of stone for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge, among hundreds of other structures. A giant, more-than-a-century-old cherry tree surmounts the artist’s driveway, a sentinel and spiritual anchor. Marks’s work is inspired in part by her appreciation and study of the natural and vernacular forms of this environment, as well as the mercurial light, the islands, the motion of water, and ever-changing quality of salt air.

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In the studio, the traditional implements of a painter are arranged alongside other artworks made from unusual materials such as molded polystyrene (the stuff that disposable cutlery is made of), water-based clay, medium-density fiberboard, and torn strips of mulberry paper that hint at the artist’s sculptural experiments. Hold that thought, because I want to talk about the three-dimensional research later. The paintings—all square and ranging in size from eight to sixteen inches— are rooted in observation and recollected visual experiences, filtered through time. They are not made directly from drawings, but underneath every painting there is a drawing. Beginning with the underdrawing, made in Indian ink or graphite on a gessoed panel, Marks puts each painting through its paces as she lays in color, one coat over another, with an eye toward cohesion and saturation. Color is this artist’s Super Glue, the substance that pulls the individual parts of the painting together. The choice of color, its application, and manipulation are also key to understanding the process of how Marks sees seeing. To see as Barbara Marks does is to sharpen our ability to notice not only discreet shapes, but also to perceive the inflections of light and hue that define their surfaces. Notice the variations of deep red along the “wall” in

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Recollection No. 55 (Virginia)


Recollection No. 55 (Virginia). Originating from the memory of a nondescript grey brick barn, this form suggests the colors of light at sunset. Look at the implied lines enclosing a shape when two hues adjoin in Recollection No. 5 (Stony Creek) and you will get a good sense of what it means to develop an abstract vocabulary that is unique to each work of art. Here, the words “saucer,” “seawall,” and “horizon” spring to mind but they could just as easily be “floor,” “radiator,” or “twilight,” depending upon how each color sits in space. This ambiguity of meaning and its cousin, specificity, are alternating veins that painters, like poets, take pleasure in mining.

Recollection No. 5 (Stony Creek) 9


As she smooths the contours of her shapes with a sable brush loaded with creamy Acryla Gouache or undiluted Flashe paint, Marks redefines their edges and relative sizes. The resulting forms, carefully girded or given space to breathe, echo the geometric abstractions of Shirley Jaffe (1923–2016), the American painter who lived and worked in Paris. In Recollection No. 23 (Stony Creek), confetti-like green squares float freely in a ground of white, while a mirrored vase form is held together by the chromatic gravity of a surrounding cobalt blue rectangle. Marks’s rakish Recollection No. 97 (Los Angeles), reminds me of the architecture and kitchen implements in

Recollection No. 23 (Stony Creek) 10


Stuart Davis’s Egg Beater paintings of 1927–28 or an Art Deco cocktail shaker seen with double vision, with a wink at Cubist collage. Its background grid keeps everything from falling apart, and its confectionary palette of chocolate browns, mint greens, and Starburst pinks recalls the sophisticated colorways of the fabrics designed by D.D. and Leslie Tillett, founders (in 1968) of Design Works, a textile studio in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood that initially trained local residents to work as designers and printers. Marks, it should be noted, is also a graphic designer with a card catalog of knowledge across the decorative arts.

Recollection No. 97 (Los Angeles) 11


Recollection No. 94 (Los Angeles)


The process of deconstruction and reassembly is a fascinating aspect of Marks’s method, and here is where those incongruous materials come in. In 2017 Marks was a resident artist at Otis College of Art and Design’s L.A. Summer Residency, where she utilized a sampling of the college’s labs—model making, ceramics, digital, and printmaking. Her interest in the relationship of the natural world to the built environment came into play when she discovered a mature, awkwardly pruned tree in a median strip near the airport. Its fan-shaped canopy became a commanding motif in the composition for the painting Recollection No. 94 (Los Angeles) that launched a series of material investigations. Marks deconstructed the painting’s composition in various ways. First, she converted a line drawing to a vector graphic and, employing a laser-cutter, had the shapes of her composition cut out of medium-density fiberboard (mdf). Marks reassembled the pieces into a three-dimensional wall-mounted sculpture that became the model for the aforementioned painting, Recollection No. 97 (Los Angeles). She preserved a by-product of this process, utilizing the intact charred contours of the laser-cut shapes as a piece of wall-mounted line art. Pivoting again, Marks made a series of vacuum-molded polystyrene reliefs using a duplicate set of the mdf shapes. But wait! Do not get rid of those mdf pieces in your mind yet!

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Marks further repurposed the forms in the printmaking lab to make a set of blind-debossed relief prints. When I think about the acceleration of an artist’s ideas through reiteration across the materials of painting and sculpture, Marks’s work could be situated alongside artists such as Polly Apfelbaum (b. 1955) or Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015). The Recollection paintings possess a quality of interiority that I associate with the Intimists, a group of painters including Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), Edouard Vuillard (1868–1940), and later, Gwen John (1876–1939), whose small-scale works depicted the artists’ domestic environments imbued with pattern and rich surface textures. In these works, figure and ground often merge into one plane to create a complex perceptual challenge for the viewer. This occurs in Marks’s Recollection No. 111 (Georgia), where we move back and forth through a sequence of warmly lit rooms, and toward a distant window, via an arrangement of silhouetted furnishings painted with the texture of eggshells. Realized in khaki greens and pale pinks, there is a feeling of fragility and loss in this painting that makes me think about the Little White House, the private retreat of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he died on April 12, 1945, in the company of Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, his longtime mistress.

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Recollection No. 111 (Georgia)


Recollection No. 35 (Stony Creek)


The works in the Recollection series are untitled (except by number and place-name), and the associations that we might make with their origin offer us the pleasure of inventing titles of our own. Leaving that effort to the viewer, Barbara Marks signals her commitment to the independence of her paintings from a fixed interpretation—in favor of a continuum of meaning.

REBECCA ALLAN is a New York-based painter and writer whose most recent exhibition, This Ravishing Earth, was presented at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

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Recollection No. 104 (Auvillar)


Recollection No. 50 (Virginia)


Recollection No. 126 (Stony Creek)


Recollection No. 77 (Wyoming)


Recollection No. 123 (Maitland)


Barbara Marks is a multidisciplinary artist based in Connecticut. She is known for her small-scale, square, colorful, paintings that are semi-abstract in nature—suggesting interior spaces, landscapes, and objects. Her work calls attention to the commonplace and the local. “What motivates me is my desire to re-present an ordinary moment—in a painting—by manipulating color, shape, and composition in such a way that the possibility of multiple interpretations (or reads) engages the viewer and encourages closer investigation. The way I paint is driven by my interest in abstraction as economy of expression, and by my fascination with the dual role that color can play both as content and as structure in a painting.” A child of the sixties, Marks fell into graphic design and established her own studio specializing in book design. In 2001, she left that behind to study painting at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (BFA 2005), and Brooklyn College CUNY (MFA 2008). Marks has been awarded artist residencies in Italy, France, and across the U.S. and has shown her work throughout the Northeast. www.barbarammarks.com

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IMAGE LIST Cover

In the studio, Auvillar, France, 2017 Inside front cover

Recollection No. 6 (Vermont), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 3

Recollection No. 76 (Wyoming), 2017, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 12 ¥ 12 in. page 4, clockwise from top

Recollection No. 22 (Stony Creek), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. Recollection No. 103 (Auvillar), 2017, acryla gouache and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. Recollection No. 90 (Wyoming), 2017, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. Recollection No. 120 (Maitland), 2018, acryla gouache, flashe, and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. Recollection No. 101 (Auvillar), 2017, acryla gouache and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. Recollection No. 113 (Stony Creek), 2018, acryla gouache, flashe, and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 4, center

Recollection No. 21 (Stony Creek), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 8

Recollection No. 55 (Virginia), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 16 ¥ 16 in.

page 9

Recollection No. 5 (Stony Creek), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 10

Recollection No. 23 (Stony Creek), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 11

Recollection No. 97 (Los Angeles), 2017, acryla gouache and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 12

Recollection No. 94 (Los Angeles), 2017, acryla gouache and graphite on gessoed panel, 12 ¥ 12 in. page 13

Sixteen shapes, Recollection, No. 94 (Los Angeles), 2017, laser-cut MDF, 16 pieces, sizes variable: 0.5 ¥ 0.125 in. to 8 ¥ 12 in. What remains, Recollection No. 94 (Los Angeles), 2017, MDF, 12 ¥ 12 ¥ 0.25 in. page 15

Recollection No. 111 (Georgia), 2017, flashe and Indian ink gessoed panel, 12 ¥ 12 in. page 16

Recollection No. 35 (Stony Creek), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 16 ¥ 16 in. page 18

Recollection No. 104 (Auvillar), 2017, acryla gouache and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in.

page 19

Recollection No. 50 (Virginia), 2016, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 16 ¥ 16 in. page 20

Recollection No. 126 (Stony Creek), 2018, acryla gouache, flashe, and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 12 ¥ 12 in. page 21

Recollection No. 77 (Wyoming), 2017, acryla gouache, flashe, and graphite on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 22

Recollection No. 123 (Maitland), 2018, acryla gouache, flashe, and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 12 ¥ 12 in. page 23

Installation, Connecticut, 2017 Inside back cover

Recollection No. 119 (Maitland), 2018, acryla gouache, flashe, and Indian ink on gessoed panel, 8 ¥ 8 in. page 2, Ben Nicholson quotation

Ben Nicholson: A Retrospective Exhibition, exhibition catalogue (London: Tate Gallery, 1955), Notes on “abstract”art by Ben Nicholson (unfolioed). Catalogue ©2018 Barbara Marks All images ©2018 by Barbara Marks Essay ©2018 by Rebecca Allan All rights reserved. Design

Barbara Marks Printing

Puritan Capital, Hollis, NH ISBN: 978-0-692-12232-7

Recollection No. 119 (Maitland) 24


“No object can be tied down to any one sort of reality . . . ” — GEORGES

BRAQUE


www.barbarammarks.com

Barbara Marks: Painting(s) from Recollection  

Barbara Marks is a multidisciplinary artist based in Connecticut. She is known for her small-scale, square, colorful, paintings that are sem...

Barbara Marks: Painting(s) from Recollection  

Barbara Marks is a multidisciplinary artist based in Connecticut. She is known for her small-scale, square, colorful, paintings that are sem...

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