Agnes Martin
Canada, 1912
Canada, 2004
After spending her youth in Vancouver, in 1932 Agnes Martin moved to the United States, where she trained as a teacher at Western Washington State College in Bellingham, then at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and finally at the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York, where she did her postgraduate degree. From the late 1930s until 1953 she taught at schools and universities in Washington, Delaware, New Mexico and Oregon. In 1950 she became a US citizen. She settled in New York in 1957 and a year later held her first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery. In the late 1950s, Martin began to paint expressive geometrical abstractions. In the 1960s these gave way to refined, vibrant grids on monochrome backgrounds, composed with slight variations in tonality, which characterised her output from that point on. Her work falls somewhere between the abstraction of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman and the systematisation of the Minimalists, although, unlike them, she has never turned her back on the emotional and spiritual component of art. In 1967 she moved to New Mexico, where she lived—in different towns, far from the hustle and bustle of the big city—until the end of her days. Her work was regularly exhibited at galleries and museums from 1975 on and gained wide recognition in the 1990s. Particularly noteworthy exhibitions included a retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1991) and a show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (1992). The latter exhibition travelled to a number of museums in North America and made just one stop in Europe, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. In 2000 the Whitney Museum organised another exhibition featuring the work she had produced since 1993. In 1997 she was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for her contribution to contemporary art, and in 1998 she won the US National Medal of Arts. Agnes Martin was a tireless artist who continued working to a very advanced age. With great simplicity, her painting expressed the joy and serenity of a life dedicated to exploring the notions of truth, beauty, innocence and happiness.
Nimfa Bisbe