Within the crowded Los Angeles County Museum of Art there is a calming refuge. A beautiful sky lit room filled with the equally airy work of Canadian-American artist Agnes Martin. Pale stripes of acrylic wash are detailed with micro thin lines of graphite that add subtle amounts of depth. Large canvases that initially seem to consist of a singular coat of paint are on closer inspection, full of texture created with repetitive lines and various tones. Her grids and bands are painted and drawn on square canvases five to six feet in size. The bright warmth of the gallery beautifully exhibits the comprehensive retrospective of the prolific artist. Her work emits its own luminosity; this effect was created by priming the canvas with an opaque coating of white gesso that subsequent layers never quite cover.
The pattern, repetition and subdued use of color created a quiet and meditative feeling that was deeply impactful. Martin’s work was disciplined with the drafting of so many horizontal and vertical lines and yet, one perceives a looseness and freedom to these straight lines. While she was concerned with the geometric perfection in her work from 1960 - 2000, what holds more weight was her concern with the feeling her work expressed and the capturing of subtle emotions.
The Untroubled Mind, 1973
I saw the plains driving out of New Mexico
and I thought
the plain had it
just the plane
If you draw a diagonal, that’s loose at both
I don’t like circles – too expanding
When I draw horizontals
you see this big plane and you have certain feelings like
you’re expanding over the plane
Anything can be painted without representation.
Words by Katharine Wimett
Works by Agnes Martin
Untitled #7, 1998
On a Clear Day portfolio, 1973
Untitled #2, 1992