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  • David Eichholtz

Colorful and Geometric Systemic Paintings by Marilyn Nelson from the Early 1980s

These spectacular colorful and geometric abstract paintings by Marilyn Nelson are from the early 1980s. At that time and in the 1970s, Nelson explored cubes and other geometric shapes with hard edge painting and a rigorous approach to color selections. The results were these trippy and mesmerizing artworks that sometimes had unintended optical and illusory qualities. Equally important, Nelson’s approach is extraordinarily detailed, rooted in mathematics, dependent on counting and grids and combined with her systemic approach, patterns form across the canvas. Her interest in pattern painting drew her to the Criss-Cross artist collaborative along with many other artists during the 1970s and 80s in Colorado and New York.

Marilyn Nelson Cities, 1982

Acrylic on canvas 66 x 66 x 1.25"

Detail: Cities, 1982

Nelson’s artworks are included in the exhibition:



Including Artworks by Artists: Charles DiJulio, Dean Fleming, Richard Kallweit, Gloria Klein, Marilyn Nelson, Clark Richert, Dee Shapiro, Robert Swain, George Woodman and Mario Yrisarry And Featuring Original Writings from the Criss-Cross Art Communications

Please contact the gallery with any questions you may have about the artwork of Marilyn Nelson or others from the Criss-Cross artist collaborative:

Marilyn Nelson Untitled (blue), 1981

Acrylic on canvas 65.5 x 65.5 x 1.25"

Detail: Untitled (blue), 1981

David Richard Gallery is launching new written profiles for the gallery artists that are based on detailed and unique interviews with each artist. Excerpts are included below with a link to the full profile in this zine publication, David Richard Gallery Zine, Images and Words:


Marilyn Nelson describes her approach to art and painting as follows:

"I’m a formalist. What I return to and appreciate most is work with formal concerns and qualities. Not only do I look at painting and sculpture, I enjoy 20th century design and photography. It excites me to discover the structural relationships and design of work. Narrative content is generally secondary to me. Of interest are finding similarity of shapes, forms, elemental spatial intervals, noticing visual continuation throughout, figure-ground relationships, color interactions, geometry, etc. I’m drawn to works that stimulate me intellectually and emotionally."

"A few admired artists/designers who fall into the above categories: Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Stuart Davis, Henri Matisse, Max Bill, Herbert Matter, Paul Rand, Frederic Remington, Minor White, Alfred Jensen, Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Mark Rothko, Kyle Cooper. They all share a strong sense of craft and precision. The craft inspires me. I’m energized and inspired by their use of color or their keen sense of compositional design."

According to Nelson, a member of the Criss-Cross Artist Collaborative:

"Systemic patterning may be described as anti-impressionistic, non-minimalistic, non-conceptual works; mechanic and precise techniques; ordered pieces shaped by the mind prior to execution; and those that integrate individual elements systematically, permitting each element to maintain its own identity while serving to comprise the whole. In the ARTSPACE Summer 1982 issue, Gordon McConnell wrote about Criss-Cross, “the work is not predominantly emotive, nor is it symbolic or tendentious. Each work is the product of more or less rational systems of conception and facture, lawfully realized according to codes established by the artist . . . the significance of this work lies in its providing the viewer with the direct experience of ruled organization–by means of reasoned systems characterized by clarity, unity, and the potential for integrated expansion.”

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