TABLE OF CONTENTS

Glenn Ligon

AGNES MARTIN’S Rose, 1966, is a six-foot-square field of cream-colored acrylic overlaid with a lightly penciled grid. Installed in a room chockablock with Abstract Expressionist, Color Field, and Minimalist works at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the painting asserts a serene presence, sending out, as Walt Whitman once wrote, “secret and divine signs.”

A teenager standing next to me while I gaze at the painting wonders aloud why it is titled Rose when it’s not rose-colored at all. She has forgotten that the flower comes in many hues, including pale yellows and creamy whites, and that in English the word rose is synonymous with arose, the color of the canvas suggestive of pallid morning light as well as of flowers. The title sparks many other allusions. For example, the “rosy-fingered dawn” in Homer, Gertrude Stein’s famous “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” and Juliet’s

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the Summer 2015 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.