Agnes Martin at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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Mid-Winter, c. 1954, Oil on Canvas

I had always drifted on the periphery of Agnes Martin fandom. But truth be told I had never seen more than one or two of her canvases at a time and they were mostly later paintings. So my understanding of Martin and her work was the art knowledge equivalent of cocktail chatter. Quick sound bites and surface sheen but very little substance. That all changed during my recent visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s steller showing of Martin’s work.

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From left: Mid-Winter, Untitled 1955 & Untitled 1954

I’m not a religious person by any means, but I’d be downplaying my experience at this exhibition if I’d didn’t at least in some way state that I felt like I’d been to church by the time I’d left. Not in a sacred “smells and bells” churchy type way, but in a more secular introspective reverent one. I arrived very early at LACMA and was the first into the galleries. I spent at least 20 minutes completely alone. Me and Agnes. And something happened. What occurs when one has the luxury of silence these days and the luxury too of being alone with a large collection of an artists oeuvre is transformative. Listening to the work becomes easier. One’s observational sense becomes keener. It felt as if Agnes and I were having a conversation; a really substantial one at that. And I found myself roaming from room to room, tears spilling down my cheeks.

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Untitled  c. 1955, Oil on canvas, 83.8 x 134.6

It’s cliché to say great work makes the viewer feel something. In a sense it does, but I believe great work does something much more significant. Truly transcendent work creates a form of communion, not just within the triangle of artist, artwork and viewer, but it charges the viewer with a type of abstract otherness. It connects us to the beyond. Opening a portal  of pure feeling. And for that I am thankful.

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Untitled c. 1955 , Oil on canvas, 118.1 x 168.3

This exhibition was organized by the Tate Modern in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. The exhibition continues from now until September, 11 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before opening at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on October, 7. For more information about LACMA and this exhibition please check out the LACMA website. http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/agnes-martin

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From left: Beach, 1957 and Harbor No. 1, 1957

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Beach, 1957,Oil on canvas

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Beach (detail)

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Harbor No. 1, 1957, Oil on canvas, 126.3 x 101.6

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From left: Untitled 1958 and Untitled c. 1957

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Untitled 1958, Oil on canvas, 165.1 x 165.1

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Untitled c. 1957, Oil on canvas, 86.4 x 86.4

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From left: Heather 1958, The Heavenly Race (Running) c. 1959, Desert Rain 1957, Untitled 1959

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Heather 1958, Oil on canvas, 177.8 x 177.8

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The Heavenly Race (Running) c 1959, Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 90.2

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Desert Rain 1957, Oil on canvas

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Untitled 1959, Oil paint and Ink on canvas, 30.5 x 30.5

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Rain (Study) 1958, Oil on canvas, 63.5 x 63.5

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Untitled 1958, Oil on canvas, 60 x 60

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Burning Tree 1961, Wood and metal 33 x 53.3

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Buds c. 1959, Oil on canvas, 127 x 127

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From left: Untitled 1960, Untitled 1962, Little Sister 1962 and The Islands 1961

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The Islands 1961

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The Islands 1961 (Detail)

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Little Sister 1962, Oil paint, ink and brass nails on canvas and wood, 25.1 x 24.2

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Little Sister 1962 (Detail)

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Untitled 1962, Oil on canvas mounted on board with nails, 24.8 x 24.8

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Untitled 1960, Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 30.5

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Islands No. 4 c. 1961, Oil on canvas, 37.8 x 37.8

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Brown Composition 1961, Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 30.5

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From left: Horizon 1960, Untitled 1960 and Untitled 1960

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Horizon 1960, Oil on canvas, 38.1 x 38.1

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Untitled 1960, Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 30.5

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Untitled 1960, Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 30.5

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From left: Falling Blue 1963 and A Grey Stone 1963

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Falling Blue 1963, Oil on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Falling Blue 1963 (Detail)

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A Grey Stone 1963, Oil on canvas, 190.5 x 190.5

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A Grey Stone 1963 (Detail)

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White Stone 1964, Oil and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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White Stone 1964 (Detail)

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Adventure 1967, Acrylic paint and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Adventure 1967 (Detail)

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Small works on paper

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Aspiration 1960, Ink on paper, 28 x 24

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Aspiration 1960 (Detail)

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Balconies/Galleries 1962, Ink on paper, 22.9 x 22.9

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Balconies/Galleries 1962 (Detail)

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Weeds 1963, Ink and watercolor on paper, 22.9 x 22.9

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Weeds 1963 (Detail)

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On a Clear Day 1973, Thirty screen prints printed in gray on cream colored japanese paper, each 30.5 x 30.5

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On a Clear Day 1973 (Detail)

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From left: Untitled #12 1981 and Untitled IX 1982

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Untitled #12 1981, Acrylic and colored pencil on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Untitled #12 1981 (Detail)

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Untitled IX 1982, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Untitled IX 1982 (Detail)

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From left: Untitled #8 1974 and Untitled #4 1975

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Untitled #8 1974, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Untitled #8 1974 (Detail)

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Untitled #4 1975, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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From left: Untitled #1 1989 and Untitled #8 1989

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Untitled #1 1989, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Untitled #8 1989, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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From left: Untitled #15 1988 and Untitled #12 1984

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Untitled #12 1984, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Untitled #12 1984 (Detail)

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Untitled #14 1977, Ink, graphite and gesso on canvas, 182.9 x 182.9

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Untitled #14 1977 (Detail)

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Untitled 1978, Watercolor and ink on paper, 22.9 x 22.9

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Untitled 1978, Watercolor and ink on paper, 22.9 x 22.9

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From left: Affection 2001 and Gratitude 2001

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Affection 2001, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4

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Gratitude 2001, Acrylic on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4

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Blessings 2001, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4

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Blessings 2001 (Detail)

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From left: Untitled #12 2002 and Untitled #4 2002

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Untitled #12 2002, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4

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 Untitled #4 2002, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4

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The Sea 2003, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4

10 responses

  1. What a terrific and generous post. So many images. You did a great job of capturing some subtle qualities. I once saw a show of her work at the University of Penn galleries and had a similar experience of it really touching me. The more I learn about her the more intrigued I am. I would love to see images of all the work she selectively destroyed. I am also quite intrigued about how her work relates in some way to her inner struggle with schizophrenia and her need to calm things, put a certain order, place a certain touch. Very moving.

  2. Thank you so much for this incredible showing of fragile beauty. It speaks so clearly of the artist zeroing in on human feeling and creating a tangible, lasting memory.

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