Agnes Martin in Guggenheim New York 2017

Agnes Martin
I haven’t heard of her until this Guggenheim exhibition visit. My art people recommended it, so I went. The part that made me ‘I should go’ was her interesting career life. To keep it short, she painted, and then left the art scene, became a teacher in rural area, and then started creating artworks again until she died. But, as one can realize from her works and curators’ explanations, she constantly struggled/strived to keep certain distance from the market. She was on and off and on and off and on and …


Her works don’t look great on photos as they are in physical settings. I felt that huge frame sizes enhance her ideas — thin, light lines in a giant blank canvas. Her style and the story of her life somehow consoled me. I spent about 3 hours, listening to the audio guide from the top to the bottom floor of Guggenheim. The time when I visited the show, I personally was stressed out and was in need of rest but not too lonely. The gallery was quite a great solution and Agnes Martin’s works were even better.


Main characteristics of her artworks are… (but her style changes here and there…)

Primary compositions
Geometric forms

Large canvas

1960s, early career
– grid = innocence of trees
– explore the potential of grid
– penciled lines, challenging the notion of drawing and glorified act of painting
– humility and egolessness
– economical choices, little paint/color/lines
– 72-inch-square paintings
– can’t really say Minimalism, more like Abstract Expressionists
– about human emotion and handmade surfaces
– likes to use nature as an element and inspiration


1974, different from 1960s
– introduce vertical stripes
– colorful!
– continue until early 1990s

1989, black, dark, gray
– consistent tone
– patience and focus
– darkness as placid, calm silence
– can still mean happiness and positive emotion



1992 of Agnes Martin: Taoism, New Mexico, retirement home
– reduced her format to 60 inches at the age of 80
– reintroduce color and loosen her reliance on structural organization
– darkness and gloomy, happiness and positive emotions
– no repetition in the waves, clouds, nature, in life; subtle variations
– grid; innocence of trees

Later in 1990s, She began to write the titles of paintings again
– feelings of innocence and love
– Taoism, purest freedom, happiness as a newborn child
– love was a unifying, positive force, ‘love is all around us like air’

Untitled, 1995

Her later works
– Transition from stripes to geometric forms
– Combining old and new styles, bringing continuity
– Reflecting her life and career


Homage to Life, 2003 (the very last painting)

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