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Agnes Martin

Closing the Circle, Early and Late

About Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin (b. 1912, Macklin, Saskatchewan, Canada; d. 2004, Taos, New Mexico) imparted a legacy of abstraction that has inspired generations of artists. Using a limited palette and a geometric vocabulary, her works are inscribed with lines or grids that hover over subtle grounds of color. Martin’s work is recognized as pure abstraction, in which space, metaphysics and internal emotional states are explored through painting, drawing and printmaking.

Martin is the recipient of numerous awards including the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1997 and the National Medal of Arts in 1998. She has been the subject of one-artist exhibitions worldwide, including a five-part retrospective at Dia: Beacon, New York, in 2007, and, most recently, a 2015 retrospective at Tate Modern, London, which will travel to Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Pace has represented Martin since 1975.

Press Release

  • Agnes Martin: Closing the Circle Early and Late
    PaceWildenstein is honored to present an exhibition of work by Agnes Martin (1912-2004), entitled Closing the Circle: Early and Late, at 32 East 57th Street, New York, from February 10 through March 4, 2006. On view are thirteen rarely seen paintings and one work on paper from 1957 to 1965 and nine paintings from 1999 to 2004 that demonstrate how Martin’s work came full circle in the last years of her life with her decision to reengage the geometric shapes and irregular grids that characterize her earlier paintings. PaceWildenstein has represented Agnes Martin since 1975, when the composition of her work was already based on a regular grid. In the intervening years a subtler grid evolved where her brushstrokes and horizontal lines formed the composition. While many of the works on view in Closing the Circle are painted in her signature square format: 72” x 72” or 60" x 60", five vertical canvases of triangles and rectangles from the late 1950s are also included in this exhibition. Although Martin is known to have been a painter since the mid 1930s, virtually no work survives from before 1957. This is due entirely to the artist’s decision to destroy everything she made prior to her discovery of geometric abstraction. The early work included in this exhibition represent the first examples of Martin’s use of geometry and the grid to create the framework for her quest for beauty and perfection. Martin culminated her final cycle of paintings, which had begun in 1993, when the artist created seven 5’ square blue canvases, which now hang in The Harwood Museum in Taos, NM. Over the course of that decade, the artist allowed the work to become increasingly colorful and complex, finally reaching the stage exemplified by the work in this exhibition. Here the same forms and compositions that led the artist into four decades of meditations on beauty serve to finish that process. Arne Glimcher, Martin’s long-time friend and dealer, received a letter in 1981 from the artist, who wrote, “We live a short time in this life and then we are gone from it without a trace, like last summer’s leaves. Anyone familiar with inspiration knows that this is true…The work is preserved only because of the response. If the response is one of greater awareness of beauty and reality, the work will be very carefully preserved…” Agnes Martin’s work is also currently on view at DIA: Beacon in To the Islands: Agnes Martin’s Paintings 1974-79 (on view through June 26, 2006) as part of its on-going five-part retrospective exhibition. The series recently included “…unknown territory…” Agnes Martin’s Paintings from the 1960s (2005) and opened with “…going forward into unknown territory…” Agnes Martin’s early paintings 1957-67 (2004-2005). Agnes Martin studied at Western Washington College of Education, Bellingham, WA, prior to receiving her B.S. (1942) from Teachers College, Columbia University. A few years following graduation, Martin matriculated at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where she also taught art courses before returning to Columbia University to earn her M.A. (1952). Since her first solo exhibition in 1958, Martin’s work has been the subject of more than 85 solo shows and two retrospectives including the survey Agnes Martin organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, which later traveled to Milwaukee, Miami, Houston and Madrid (1992–94) and Agnes Martin: Paintings and Drawings 1974–1990 organized by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, with subsequent venues in France and Germany (1991–92). In 2002, The Menil Collection, Houston, mounted Agnes Martin: The Nineties and Beyond. That same year, The Harwood Museum of Art at the University of New Mexico, Taos, organized Agnes Martin: Paintings from 2001, as well as a symposium honoring Martin on the occasion of her 90th birthday. In addition to participating in an international array of group exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale (1997, 1980, 1976), the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial (1995, 1977), and Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1972), Martin has been the recipient of multiple honors including the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Women’s Caucus for Art of the College Art Association (2005); the Governor’s Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts given by Governor Gary Johnson, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1998); the National Medal of Arts awarded by President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Arts (1998); the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement by the College Art Association (1998); the Golden Lion for Contribution to Contemporary Art at the Venice Biennale (1997); the Oskar Kokoschka Prize awarded by the Austrian government (1992); the Alexej von Jawlensky Prize awarded by the city of Wiesbaden, Germany (1991); and election to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York (1989). Agnes Martin’s work can be found in numerous public collections throughout the United States and abroad including: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati, Marfa, TX; Dia Center for the Arts, NY; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; The Menil Collection, Houston, TX; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; The Museum of Modern Art New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, NY; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Gallery, London; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. For further information and images please contact Jennifer Benz Joy, Public Relations Associate, at 212.421.3292 or