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Marden cuts the cord that still bound an artist like Jasper Johns to the literary underpinnings of nineteenth-century symbolism, without simultaneously destroying art’s ability to evoke natural forms. He jettisons story, myth, and illusion, and with them representation, composition, and spatial depth. What we are left with is paint, canvas, scale, shape, and brush stroke—but also, crucially, the possibility of allusion. “Nebraska” was inspired by the feelings Marden had when traveling through a landscape—not big feelings of awe or exaltation but something altogether gentler and more subdued, a consciousness and appreciation of the flat green farmlands and wide-open spaces. Modest and self-contained, “Nebraska” avoids the grandiloquence that characterized American landscape painting from Frederic Edwin Church to Clyfford Still.

Richard Dorment
New York Review of Books

The entire MOMA show knocked me out, but this painting was particularly heart stopping. And for the first time, my experience was actually enhanced by the show’s audio guide (never thought I would have a nice thing to say about those black hand helds glued to people’s ears that place one more layer of linearity between the viewer and the work…just put it down and LOOK!) But this guide consists primarily of Marden speaking about his work in that calm, unruffled voice. And his thoughts about Nebraska were illuminating. (BTW, the audio can be accessed from the MOMA website.)

My only complaint was verbalized by my friend Nancy Simonds who suggested that Nebraska really could have used its very own room. It’s so subtle that just about anything else is a distraction.

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