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Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin

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Agnes Bernice Martin was an American abstract painter, often referred to as a minimalist; Martin considered herself an abstract expressionist.
She won a National Medal of Arts
National Medal of Arts
The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Honorees are selected by the National Endowment for the...

 from the National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Its current...

 in 1998.

Life and career


Agnes Martin was born in Macklin, Saskatchewan, grew up in Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

, and moved to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1931, becoming a citizen in 1950. Martin studied at Western Washington University
Western Washington University
Western Washington University is one of six state-funded, four-year universities of higher education in the U.S. state of Washington. It is located in Bellingham and offers bachelor's and master's degrees.-History:...

 College of Education, Bellingham, WA, prior to receiving her B.S. (1942) from Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University is a graduate school of education located in New York City, New York...

.
A few years following graduation, Martin matriculated at the University of New Mexico
University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico at Albuquerque is a public research university located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the United States. It is the state's flagship research institution...

, Albuquerque, where she also taught art courses before returning to Columbia University to earn her M.A. (1952).

Her work is most closely associated with Taos, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico
Taos is a town in Taos County in the north-central region of New Mexico, incorporated in 1934. As of the 2000 census, its population was 4,700. Other nearby communities include Ranchos de Taos, Cañon, Taos Canyon, Ranchitos, and El Prado. The town is close to Taos Pueblo, the Native American...

, although she moved to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 after being discovered by the artist/gallery owner Betty Parsons
Betty Parsons
Betty Parsons, born Betty Bierne Pierson, was an American artist and art dealer known for her early promotion of Abstract Expressionism. She was known as "the den mother of Abstract Expressionism"...

 in 1957.
In 1957, she settled in Coenties Slip
Coenties Slip (Manhattan)
Coenties Slip, originally an artificial inlet in the East River for the loading and unloading of ships that was land-filled in 1835, is a historic pedestrian walkway in Lower Manhattan, New York City, in the heart of the Financial District. It is perpendicular to Pearl Street and originally...

 in lower Manhattan, where her friends and neighbors included Robert Indiana
Robert Indiana
Robert Indiana is an American artist associated with the Pop Art movement.-Life and work:Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana. His family relocated to Indianapolis, where he graduated from Arsenal Technical High School...

, Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly is an American painter and sculptor associated with Hard-edge painting, Color Field painting and the Minimalist school. His works demonstrate unassuming techniques emphasizing the simplicity of form found similar to the work of John McLaughlin. Kelly often employs bright colors to...

, and Jack Youngerman
Jack Youngerman
-Biography:Jack Youngerman, was born 1926, St. Louis, MO, moved in Louisville, KY in 1929. He studied art at the University of North Carolina from 1944 to 1946 under a wartime navy training program, and graduated from the University of Missouri in 1947....

. After Martin left New York and moved to Cuba, New Mexico
Cuba, New Mexico
Cuba is a village in Sandoval County, New Mexico, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 590. It is part of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area...

, in 1967, she did not paint for seven years. However, in 1974, she completed a group of new paintings and since 1975 has exhibited regularly. According to a filmed interview with her which was released in 2003, she had moved from New York City only when she was told her rented loft/workspace/studio would be no longer available because of the building's imminent demolition. She goes on further to state that she could not conceive of working in any other space in New York.

The Agnes Martin estate is represented by Pace Gallery
Pace Gallery
The Pace Gallery is a New York City-based exhibition space. It was founded in 1960 in Boston by Arne Glimcher.-PaceWildenstein:From 1993 until April 1, 2010, the gallery became "PaceWildenstein," a joint business venture between the Pace Gallery and Wildenstein & Co....

, New York.

Artistic style


Her signature style is defined by an emphasis upon line, grids, and fields of extremely subtle color. In the 1966 exhibition Systemic Painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a well-known museum located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States. It is the permanent home to a renowned collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions...

, Martin's grids were therefore celebrated as examples of Minimalist art and were hung among works by artists including Sol LeWitt
Sol LeWitt
Solomon "Sol" LeWitt was an American artist linked to various movements, including Conceptual art and Minimalism....

, Robert Ryman
Robert Ryman
Robert Ryman is an American painter identified with the movements of monochrome painting, minimalism, and conceptual art. He is best known for abstract, white-on-white paintings. He lives and works in New York.-Early life and career:...

, and Donald Judd
Donald Judd
Donald Clarence Judd was an American artist associated with minimalism . In his work, Judd sought autonomy and clarity for the constructed object and the space created by it, ultimately achieving a rigorously democratic presentation without compositional hierarchy...

. While minimalist in form, however, these paintings were quite different in spirit from those of her other minimalist counterparts, retaining small flaws and unmistakable traces of the artist's hand; she shied away from intellectualism
Intellectualism
Intellectualism denotes the use and development of the intellect, the practice of being an intellectual, and of holding intellectual pursuits in great regard. Moreover, in philosophy, “intellectualism” occasionally is synonymous with “rationalism”, i.e. knowledge derived mostly from reason and...

, favoring the personal and spiritual. Her paintings, statements, and influential writings often reflect an interest in Eastern philosophy, especially Taoist
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

. Because of her work's added spiritual dimension, which became more and more dominant after 1967, she preferred to be classified as an abstract expressionist
Abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism was an American post–World War II art movement. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris...

. She consciously distanced herself from the social life and social events that brought other artists into the public eye. When she died at age 92, she was said to have not read a newspaper for the last 50 years. The book dedicated to the exhibition of her work in New York at The Drawing Center
Drawing Center
The Drawing Center is a SoHo museum and the only nonprofit exhibition space in the United States to focus solely on the exhibition of drawings, both historical and contemporary.- Location and activities :...

 in 2005 – 3x abstraction (Yale University Press
Yale University Press
Yale University Press is a book publisher founded in 1908 by George Parmly Day. It became an official department of Yale University in 1961, but remains financially and operationally autonomous....

) – analyzes the spiritual dimension in Martin's work. She then moved onto working with shoes, shirts and other clothing. She blended these into paintings through a technique she called "clothed spacing".

Martin worked only in black, white, and brown before moving to New Mexico. During this time, she introduced light pastel washes to her grids, colors that shimmered in the changing light. Later, Martin reduced the scale of her square canvases and shifted her work to use bands of ethereal colour.

Exhibitions


Since her first solo exhibition in 1958, Martin’s work has been the subject of more than 85 solo shows and two retrospectives including the survey, Agnes Martin, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art, often referred to simply as "the Whitney", is an art museum with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century American art. Located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street in New York City, the Whitney's permanent collection contains more than 18,000 works in a wide variety of...

, New York, which later traveled to Milwaukee, Miami, Houston and Madrid (1992–94) and Agnes Martin: Paintings and Drawings 1974–1990 organized by the Stedelijk Museum
Stedelijk Museum
Founded in 1874, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is a museum for classic modern and contemporary art in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It has been housed on the Paulus Potterstraat, next to Museum Square Museumplein and to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw, in Amsterdam Zuid...

, Amsterdam, with subsequent venues in France and Germany (1991–92). In 1998, The Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts may refer to:* Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, United States** Museum of Fine Arts , which is near the museum* Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, United States...

 in Santa Fe, New Mexico mounted Agnes Martin Works on Paper. In 2002, the Menil Collection
Menil Collection
The Menil Collection, located in Houston refers either to a museum that houses the private art collection of founders John de Menil and Dominique de Menil, or to the collection itself...

, Houston, mounted Agnes Martin: The Nineties and Beyond. That same year, the Harwood Museum of Art
Harwood Museum of Art
Harwood Museum of Art is located in Taos, New Mexico. Founded in 1923 it is the second oldest art museum in New Mexico. Its collections include a wide range of Hispanic works and visual arts from the Taos Society of Artists, Taos Moderns, and contemporary artists. In 1935 the museum was...

 at the University of New Mexico
University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico at Albuquerque is a public research university located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the United States. It is the state's flagship research institution...

, Taos, organized Agnes Martin: Paintings from 2001, as well as a symposium honoring Martin on the occasion of her 90th birthday. The Harwood also has a dedicated Agnes Martin Gallery, featuring their permanent collection of seven of Martin's paintings. Her work is on "long-term view" and part of the permanent holdings of Dia Art Foundation
Dia Art Foundation
Dia Art Foundation is a non-profit organization that initiates, supports, presents, and preserves art projects. It was established in 1974 as the Lone Star Foundation by Philippa de Menil, the daughter of Houston arts patron Dominique de Menil and an heiress to the Schlumberger oil exploration...

, Beacon, New York.

In addition to participating in an international array of group exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale
Venice Biennale
The Venice Biennale is a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years in Venice, Italy. The Venice Film Festival is part of it. So too is the Venice Biennale of Architecture, which is held in even years...

 (1997, 1980, 1976), the Whitney Biennial
Whitney Biennial
The Whitney Biennial is a biennale exhibition of contemporary American art, typically by young and lesser known artists, on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, USA. The event began as an annual exhibition in 1932, the first biennial was in 1973...

 (1995, 1977), and Documenta
Documenta
documenta is an exhibition of modern and contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. It was founded by artist, teacher and curator Arnold Bode in 1955 as part of the Bundesgartenschau which took place in Kassel at that time...

, Kassel, Germany (1972), Martin has been the recipient of multiple honors including the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Women’s Caucus for Art of the College Art Association (2005); the Governor’s Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts given by Governor Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson may refer to:*Gary Johnson , former Governor of New Mexico and candidate for President in 2012*Gary Johnson , American politician, Wisconsin State Assembly...

, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1998); the National Medal of Arts
National Medal of Arts
The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Honorees are selected by the National Endowment for the...

 awarded by President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 and the National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Its current...

 (1998); the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement by the College Art Association
College Art Association
The College Art Association of America is the principal professional association in the United States for practitioners and scholars of art, art history, and art criticism...

 (1998); the Golden Lion
Golden Lion
Il Leone d’Oro is the highest prize given to a film at the Venice Film Festival. The prize was introduced in 1949 by the organizing committee and is now regarded as one of the film industry's most distinguished prizes...

 for Contribution to Contemporary Art at the Venice Biennale (1997); the Oskar Kokoschka Prize awarded by the Austrian government (1992); the Alexej von Jawlensky Prize awarded by the city of Wiesbaden, Germany (1991); and election to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York (1989).

Cultural references


Composer John Zorn
John Zorn
John Zorn is an American avant-garde composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. Zorn is a prolific artist: he has hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, or producer...

's Redbird
Redbird (John Zorn album)
-Personnel:*Jim Pugliese – bass drums, percussion*Carol Emanuel – harp *Erik Friedlander – cello *Jill Jaffe – viola *John Zorn – conductor...

(1995) was inspired by and dedicated to Martin.

Sister Wendy Beckett, in her book American Masterpieces, said about Martin: "Agnes Martin often speaks of joy; she sees it as the desired condition of all life. Who would disagree with her?... No-one who has seriously spent time before an Agnes Martin, letting its peace communicate itself, receiving its inexplicable and ineffable happiness, has ever been disappointed. The work awes, not just with its delicacy, but with its vigor, and this power and visual interest is something that has to be experienced."

Frida Hyvönen
Frida Hyvönen
Frida Hyvönen is a Swedish singer-songwriter. She grew up in Robertsfors, a small place just outside Umeå in the north of Sweden , and is currently based in Paris, France....

's song "Straight Thin Line" was inspired by Agnes Martin.

Poet Hugh Behm-Steinberg's poem "Gridding, after some sentences by Agnes Martin" discusses patterns in the natural world, makes a parallel between writing and painting, and ends with a line about the poet's admiration of Martin's work.

Further reading

  • Brandauer, Aline, Agnes Martin: Works on Paper, Lumen Books and the Museum of New Mexico Foundation /1998
  • Fer, Briony, "Drawing Drawing: Agnes Martin's Infinity", in: 3 X Abstraction, edited by Catherine de Zegher and Hendel Teicher, New Haven: Yale University Press and NY: The Drawing Center, 2005. Reprinted in Women Artists
    Women artists
    Women artists have been involved in making art in most times and places. Often certain certain media are associated with women, particularly textile arts; however, these gender roles in art change in different cultures and communities...

    at the Millennium
    , edited by Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher, MIT Press / October Books, 2006.
  • Haskell, Barbara, Agnes Martin, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1992.
  • Krauss, Rosalind E., "Agnes Martin: The/Could/", in :Inside the Visible, edited by Catherine de Zegher, MIT Press, 1996.
  • Pollock, Griselda, "Agnes Dreaming: Dreaming Agnes", in 3 X Abstraction, edited by Catherine de Zegher and Hendel Teicher, New Haven: Yale University Press and NY: The Drawing Center, 2005. ISBN 0-300-10826-5.

External links