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Works by Agnes Martin

Sr. Editor

Agnes Martin was a Canadian artist who moved to the States to study and ultimately teach art.

At first she painted landscapes but when she moved to New York in the 50’s she became an integral member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, meaning her paintings evolved to be more minimal until they were just vertical and horizontal lines. There were perhaps a simplification of the horizon line in her earlier landscapes, but people also speculate that the grids of New York City blocks and the shape of skyscrapers made their way into her mind.

She left New York for New Mexico because the building her studio was in was going to be torn down, and then didn’t paint for seven years! She lived basically like a hermit, with no radio and taking very few visitors. It’s said that she didn’t even read a newspaper for 50 years! Her interest in the teachings of Zen Buddhism may have accounted for the drastic lifestyle change.

The spiritual aspect to her paintings is the reason she wanted to be called an Abstract Expressionist instead of a Minimalist. Agnes Martin’s fragile lines speak to her psyche and philosophy on life, whereas Minimalism was a conceptual exercise in paring down art to just the stuff it’s made out of (think plain black canvases or big metal boxes).

There is lots of speculation about Martin’s sexuality. Though she had romantic relationships with women she never publicly identified as a lesbian. The silence and mystery surrounding her personal life could be said to be related to the quiet yet profound effect her large canvases have on the viewer.



I know I always feel contemplative in front of an Agnes Martin. Do you?


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Agnes Martin

Agnes Bernice Martin RCA (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004) was an American abstract painter known for her minimalist style and abstract expressionism. Born in Canada, she moved to the United States in 1931, where she pursued higher education and became a U.S. citizen in 1950. Martin's artistic journey began in New York City, where she immersed herself in modern art and developed a deep interest in abstraction. Despite often being labeled a minimalist, she identified more with abstract expressionism. Her work has been defined as an "essay in discretion, inwardness and silence."

Growing up in rural Canada and influenced by the New Mexico desert, Martin's art was characterized by serene compositions featuring grids and lines. Her works were predominantly monochromatic, employing subtle colors like black, white, and brown. Martin's minimalist approach conveyed tranquility and spirituality, and her paintings often carried positive names reflective of her philosophy.

Her career included numerous exhibitions, totaling over 85 solo shows, and participation in major events such as the Venice Biennale and Documenta. Martin's work earned recognition for its unique contribution to contemporary art, and she received awards like the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2004.

Despite personal struggles with schizophrenia, Martin's dedication to her art persisted, and her legacy continues to inspire contemporary artists. Documentaries and films have explored her life and work, shedding light on her artistic process and impact. Beyond the art world, her influence extends to popular culture, as seen in a Google doodle and a song dedicated to her. Martin's artistic vision, blending minimalism and spirituality, remains an enduring and influential force in the realm of abstract art.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Agnes Martin