PRINT Summer 2015

Prudence Peiffer

DESCRIBING AGNES MARTIN’S PAINTINGS in these pages in 1967, Annette Michelson wrote of their “ultimate ineffability.” That same year, Martin herself seemed to act out this escape from language: Following the sudden death of her friend Ad Reinhardt, the loss of her studio and apartment, and her traumatic admittance to Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward for a schizophrenic episode, Martin gave away her art supplies and left New York, camping out in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest before settling in remote New Mexico. She also gave up words, announcing that she would try not to speak for three years.

When Martin began to make and exhibit work again in the early 1970s, her “return” was not just to painting but also to public language, though of an idiosyncratic kind that developed in parallel with her painting yet by no means elucidated it. She contributed parables about happiness and

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