Through her focus on grids and repetitive geometric patterns while maintaining the sensuality of the brushstroke, Agnes Martin served as a bridge between two generations of American artists—the Abstract Expressionists whom she admired and recognized as her peers, and the Minimalists who saw her as an inspiring precursor.
In 1967 Martin sought refuge from New York to a remote desert in New Mexico. The expansive southwestern desert became a defining experience for Martin’s work since it served as a constant source of meditation. The spiritual nature of the landscape remains apparent in her allover grid paintings. For Martin, these works were not mechanical or rigid. Through simple, persistent, yet apparently fragile geometry based on grids and planes, she found she could pursue an ideal of classical perfection whose forms are held only in the mind. Between 1967 and 1974, Martin stopped painting and focused on maintaining a simple lifestyle and spiritual awareness. This break did not hinder her style or practice. Rather, her later works often touched on elements that were apparent in decades prior.
Often employing delicate pastels and light gray washes, Martin’s late paintings emphasize lightness over structure and seem to emanate light rather than reflect it. In her Innocent Love series (1999), gently insistent horizontal lines, bounding the color washes, suggest an infinite space beyond the frames of the five-foot-square-canvases. The theme of innocent love may be related to the artist’s descriptions of the “untroubled state of mind” that allow for “moments of inspiration.”
Agnes Martin was born in Macklin, Canada, in 1912. She died in rural New Mexico in 2004.
This important anthology brings together the most current scholarship on Agnes Martin's paintings by essayists considering the many facets of the artist's four-decade career.