Los Angeles

Agnes Martin

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

Nicholas Wilder has come upon a vein of small, solid shows, each just a few nicely installed (hung low) items, and Agnes Martin’s paintings constitute another one. Miss Martin exhibits five works, moderately sized and biased to the vertical, and each one transcends a spartan surface incident and becomes, really, quite moving.

Number one is a gessoed surface with a green pencil-line, horizontally proportioned grid. Number two is more heavily underpainted; the horizontal line motif is repeated, top to bottom, with segments of three lines about an inch apart, alternated with a segment about two and one half inches apart which is “colored” a dirtier off-white. Number three, a cream-colored picture, has a pronounced margin emphasizing the “graph” (something Miss Martin seems to want to avoid); the grid unit here is one half inch by three sixteenths of an inch. Number four is like number two, except that it is stained faintly green, with imperfections; its horizontal lines are an eighth-inch apart with only two segments between “heavy” lines. Number five, the least impressive of the paintings, is a margined gold rectangle incised with a three-by-one-inch unit grid; its difficulties lie with the art-historical associations of value connected with the antique-y gold surface, something which Miss Martin, her straightforwardness carrying the whole show, can do without. On the whole, the exhibition is amazingly rich, with a surprising feel of a push-pull third dimension, a sense of expanse beyond the limited format of the pictures. Miss Martin has something more profound than a good graphic idea, and the paintings are fully justified just by being there.

––Peter Plagens