New York

Agnes Martin

Pace Gallery And Robert Elkon Gallery

Agnes Martin showed 10 recent paintings at Pace, while a selection of earlier paintings was on exhibition at Elkon. We are familiar with the grid paintings of the ’60s. They are true interior landscapes, suggesting an illusive sense of place embodied in a rigorous and delicate structure. They were never meant to be Minimalist paintings that referred only to their own process. One can “see through” the process to a meditative plane that is both surface and vista.

What seems to have happened with the new work is that the artist has literally entered her subject matter. She left New York to live in New Mexico and, after several years of not painting, has returned to making her art. The new paintings are less demanding than her earlier work. Although still tough and austere in their format, they seem so true to the light and space of the Southwest that they invite us to enter a landscape that is both more specific and less internal.

The new paintings are all pale sun-bleached pink and greyed blue. Their format is simple, made up of alternating vertical bands of pink and blue or bands of paler and darker pink. The color and application of paint suggest that there once was more, that is, a more intense color and a denser surface of paint. The paint looks as if it has been delicately scraped away. There is no rough scratched surface, but rather the results of a slow, patient act of attrition. This works as a metaphor for the action of the sun and the wind. It is also another concept of time. For Hare, time is the cycle of transformation of earth to beast to man to earth. For Agostini, it is the process of human aging translated into the form of his material. For Martin, time is the slow and delicate aging of the earth by the sun. Her paintings are radiant. If I and following generations had the patience, we could witness their erosion and bleaching back to a white void.

––Paul Brach