March 22 – Happy Birthday, Agnes Martin

Posted on March 22, 2015

Her art is often called minimalist:

Minimalist art is often abstract—it isn't a picture of something just as we see it; it isn't representational.

It is often geometrical—featuring perfect (or almost perfect) lines and geometric shapes rather than organic forms.

It seems to say that less is more.

Agnes Martin, born on this date in 1912, rejected the label “minimalist.” Instead, she called herself an abstract expressionist, which is the art movement that preceded and to some extent led to minimalism. Another abstract expressionist said about art:
“The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is.”
Martin herself said this:

Martin was born in the little town of Macklin, in Saskatchewan, Canada, but she lived and studied and worked in some big, exciting cities, including Vancouver (also Canada), Albuquerque (New Mexico), and New York City. When she was in NYC, she lived in a loft in the same building with other struggling artists, and she installed her own plumbing as well as made other needed repairs. (She probably learned about practical home-repair and renovation stuff from her mom, because her mother made the family's living by buying old homes, fixing them up, and selling them again.)

At age 55, Martin built—all by herself!—an adobe house in New Mexico, and lived alone there the rest of her life. Apparently other artists sought her out, and Martin built three more buildings on her land—not sure if they were guest houses, or studios, or stores from which people could buy her art works, or what!

I read in several places that, in those later years, Martin lived a simple, quiet life. She didn't have a radio or TV, and she didn't read a newspaper for 50 years.

While “in exile” from the world, living in New Mexico, Martin wrote as well as painted, completing several articles and books. Her paintings became even better known and more often shown, winning many awards and honors. Her art works traveled around the world, being exhibited in many important museums in many large cities. From what I could discover, Martin did not travel with her art, although she was delighted by the special Agnes Martin Gallery in the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico, and she often visited “her” gallery (pictured below).

Eventually, Martin moved into a retirement residence in Taos. She died when she was 92 years old.

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