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AGNES MARTIN.....One of the leading contemporary artists in 20th-century America, Agnes Martin was known for her monochromatic, geometric grid painting that combined paint and faintly wavering pencil lines. She is considered a forerunner of Minimalist art. She began her career in New York, and spent her later years in New Mexico from where she managed to maintain a national reputation.
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This particular auction is for one new 5” x 7” Notecard with Black and White photograph taken by Mildred Tolbert, "Agnes Martin", ca. 1954......Contact seller for details....
Agnes Martin (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004) was often referred to as a minimalist, although she considered herself an abstract expressionist...Her work is most closely associated with Taos, New Mexico...The first showing of Agnes Martin's work took place in July 1947 when, as a graduate student, she took part in the Field School of Art run by the University of New Mexico at the Harwood Museum. She lived in Taos from June 1952 until 1957.... Her paintings were occasionally seen in New Mexico - a group show in Santa Fe, another in Albuquerque. She showed at the Ruins Gallery in Ranchos de Taos, and with Louis Ribak and Beatrice Mandelman at Gallery Ribak a block west of the Harwood...She moved to New York City after being discoverd by Betty Parsons, owner of one of the premier galleries in New York, who had come to Taos to see Dorothy Brett.. In Taos in 1954 she did her first semiabstract work, Betty Parsons saw it and invited Ms. Martin to join her New York stable...In 1967, Disillusioned with the art scene in New York, she returned to New Mexico where she hand built an adobe and log house on a mesa outside of Cuba, near Taos....
Between 1977 and 1992, she lived and worked in Galisteo, New Mexico... She lived a quiet, modest, somewhat reclusive life-style, in a house she built with her own hands on a remote mesa, which placed her in eccentric company of the United States's isolated artists - Winslow Homer on the coast of Maine, Albert Pinkham Ryder in his Manhattan apartment.....Taos was the world of Millicent Rogers, Mabel Dodge, Georgia O’Keeffe, Rebecca James, Dorothy Brett, Frida Lawrence......She became an inspiration to younger artists, from Eva Hesse to Ellen Gallagher....After hearing lectures by the Zen Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki at Columbia, she became interested in Asian thought, not as a religious discipline, but as a code of ethics, a practical how-to for getting through life. "One thing I like about Zen," she wrote. "It doesn't believe in achievement. I don't think the way to succeed is by doing something aggressive. Aggression is weak-minded.".....
The bulk of her work is composed of square grids many of which represent Taoist reflections. Because of her work's added spiritual dimension, which became more and more dominant after 1967, she preferred to be classified as an abstract expressionist. She worked only in black, white, and brown before moving to New Mexico. During this time, she introduced light pastel washes to her grids, colors that shimmered in the changing light....Martin's creative process begins by developing a mental image of the composition so that she has a clear idea of how to proceed. She then concentrates on getting the scale and proportions right. Any painting that leaves her studio must meet the most exacting of standards. She has said, "When I think of art I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not in the eye, it is in the mind. In our minds there is awareness of perfection."....
Her paintings of the past twenty-five years were all made in exactly the same way. She prepared her surfaces with two coats of gesso. "That's all. Any more would take the tooth out of the canvas." Then, using a straplike measuring tape for a guide, she draws the horizontal lines, varying only the intervals between them from painting to painting. An application of acrylic paint, thinned to a wash with water, comes next ("I stopped using oils in 1964 because they took three days to dry"), leaving the faint but distinct trace of brushstrokes on the surfaces...."I say to my mind, 'What am I going to paint next?' Then I wait for the inspiration. The painting comes into my mind, and I can see it. You have to wait if you're going to be inspired. You have to clear out your mind, to have a quiet and empty mind."
Martin's convictions about art's function in the world seems to be channeled from a time when words like "classical" and "romantic" and "ideal" carried real definitional weight. The goal of art, Martin says, is "to make us aware of perfection in the mind. The Greeks knew that in the mind you can draw a perfect circle, but that you can't really draw a perfect circle. Everyone has a vision of perfection, don't you think? A housewife wants to have a perfect home." But she insists she has nothing mystical in mind. When she says, "Nothing in this world applies to my art. It's beyond the world. I paint about happiness and innocence and beauty," her words have a practical side....She spoke of the deep spiritual purpose of the artistic life, saying that an artist's goal is not to make political statements but to create lasting beauty......People who look at my painting say that it makes them happy, like the feeling when you wake up in the morning. And happiness is the goal, isn't it?"
In the 1940’s she was close to the Abstract Expressionists. At first, she did not follow their path, preferring to work in a figurative vein. But it wasn't until she was well into her forties, and had abandoned traditional still-lifes and portraits for abstraction, that she gained wide notice......”I didn't like my early work, because it wasn't abstract. I kept asking what next, what next. I'd stop painting because I was dissatisfied."
When she began to paint again, she adopted a palette of muted shades of brown, beige, gray and white, sometimes warmed by soft washes of pink, orange or blue.... The titles of these geometrically organized pictures—Mountains, Dark River, Starlight, Leaf in the Wind, Orange Grove, Spring, and White Flower....suggested the landscape and skies of her adopted New Mexico. They were not realistic depictions but rather subtle evocations of the sensations and emotional weight of the natural world....“Anything,” Martin claimed in 1972, “can be painted without representation.”
Ms. Martin led a life of solitude by choice. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment at her retirement community, with only one work of art on the walls: a poster by her friend and fellow New Mexico artist, Georgia O'Keeffe. She enjoyed classical music but did not own either a television or a stereo. Her sole indulgence was a white Mercedes-Benz.
She also disavowed politics and any connection with the feminist movement. In 1967, when she was honored by Harper's Bazaar as one of 100 "Women of Achievement," she came to the luncheon wearing moccasins and an unironed skirt and blouse.