New York

Agnes Martin

Pace Gallery

There is nothing new about Agnes Martin’s new paintings, nothing new because they do not show a departure from one style to another. There is a sense of perpetual advent to them, of something continually coming into being. She is a master at evoking temporal drama from minimal form. Landscape has influenced the work; vast ground is represented concisely in unfettered line and color.

This show consisted of eight paintings, each 6 by 6 feet, composed of delicate horizontal graphite lines marking bands of gesso-muted, whitish colors, tinted with pink, blue and yellow. Each is untitled and numbered, and their compositions indicate meditations on the same theme. But technical descriptions of her work, like the term “minimal,” do not do justice to the physical power of these paintings, which is closer to that of certain Abstract Expressionist works. Martin once suggested years ago that people should be able to watch a waterfall for the duration of an afternoon. Not that I have ever spent a day or even a half an hour in front of a waterfall, but her paintings make me think I have. The constant movements of light and value, the streams of diffused color washing in and out of the graphite lines are natural, essential components. In Untitled No. 18 and Untitled No. 11, the wide bands are almost colorless, the graphite seems to evaporate, but subtly moves in and out, or up and down, as does a horizon. Years ago, Lawrence Alloway called this “arrested movement revealed.”

I was interested to learn, from the artist’s writings, that she has long adamantly resisted a “mystical” interpretation of her work. There is little to prevent the viewer from experiencing her paintings: the subject is so utterly simple.

Joan Casademont