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Molly Warnock

WRITING IN 1966, Ann Wilson noted the ways in which Agnes Martin’s paintings “seem to grow out of the fabric” of the underlying support. The critic meant to stress the extent to which artistic process appears effaced, aesthetic subjectivity suppressed, in Martin’s impersonal-looking works. I recently found myself reconsidering these claims, standing before two roughly contemporaneous paintings currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Both pictures draw impetus from the distinctly taupe-colored canvas that recurs throughout the artist’s defining New York–based period, but each does so differently, offering a singularly vivid interpretation of the relationship between painted field and chosen fabric. By that very fact, however, they attest to the continued importance of Martin’s carefully calibrated decision making.

The title of the earlier painting,

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