Thursday, June 25, 2015


Wonderful to have the opportunity to see again those of Agnes Martin's paintings that I have seen previously that I liked the most, and the least, at the Tate Modern retrospective, alongside a comprehensive sampling of her entire life in painting. The grey paintings that I have also seen at the Pace Gallery in New York still fascinate in the way they interrogate the difference between even and uneven (an uneven number of lines gives a horizon in the middle of the painting, an even number does not), bounded and unbounded (is a line the edge of an area or an area in its own right?). This latter aspect is made explicit in the 1973 series of screenprints, On a Clear Day. The paintings I have liked least in the past are the pastel-coloured works of the 1980s; to paint horizontal bars in the faded colours of the American flag and not take into account the possible political connotations seems to exemplify the worst of Martin's apoliticism. Yet in the context of the rest of her work I find myself softening my view: I still think it is a failing, but I now trust more her inability to see things in such a way. There are also startling revelations to be found in works both very early (the sculptures – so emphatic in their thingness) and very late (Homage to life – perspective suddenly and monumentally makes, not a comeback, but a first appearance in any of her mature work).

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