The idea of pleasure has been meandering through my mind quite a bit this year, both in terms of how we create meaningful enjoyment in our otherwise blank-state lives, as well as the experience of pleasure in art appreciation. I return to this question often whenever I come across the work of Brice Marden.
Before I knew anything about Marden, his work, or his processes, I simply enjoyed the experience of viewing his compositions, a simple sensing in space. As it usually does, color was the first thing to enrapture me, causing an atmospheric change as ambient light seemingly absorbed into his thick layers of beeswax, drawing me closer to explore texture. His flat, ironed encaustics were sensuous – auras, I imagined, wrapped around a naked body – clear, and with a sexual easiness that required only his pure color and my pure concentration to conceive of so many reactions. I enjoyed looking at all that footage of nothingness and it gave me pleasure. In his subsequent serpentine lines, webs of dizzied brush strokes thick and twiggy, I would get lost, I would escape from the politics and the passions of the outside world and just wrap myself into his canvases. I never really paid any attention to notions of whether it was critically good or academic or masterful; a judgment didn’t matter.
“One man wants to enjoy his own nature by means of art, another wants with its aid to get above and away from his nature for a time. In accordance with both needs there exists a twofold species of art and artist.” – “What we desire of art.” in Human, All Too Human, Friedrich Nietzsche