Photo: Alexander Liberman
Agnes Martin (1912-2004) was an American-Canadian painter known for her calm, meditative and sensuel works. In pale swathes of color lined with pencil, Martin’s art emerged out of Abstract Expressionism while preceding Minimalism’s sparse intensity.
She lived in lifelong self-elected exile in New Mexico, where she met spiritually oriented artists and started to paint to move beyond the satisfaction of her ego.
Photo: 2019 Estate of Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Agnes Martin was recognized at a relatively early stage of her career when she was in her mid-forties. She was always radical in her approach, so when she found her artistic expression as a 30-year-old, she burned everything she had previously drawn and painted. In the mid-1950s, her peculiar minimalism was discovered by an art dealer. She moved to New York and became part of the city’s art scene, that among others included Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt. Later in the sixties she was part of an art group consisting of recognised artists like Mark Rotko, Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman and Donald Judd.
Agnes Martin gradually distanced herself from the art groups, she was involved with and one day chose to disappear while on the highway en route to Mexico.
She stopped painting and lived in self-made, somewhat primitive homes for the remainder of her life.
Martin was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but in her last years found peace in the Taoist meditation her paintings constituted. She was not striving for perfection - rather, she felt her art was a reflection of the patterns of nature.