© Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan on Agnes Martin

At the 2019 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, Pace Gallery will present Echoes, pairing new works by contemporary artists with works by 20th century figures who have impacted the trajectory of art history up the present moment.

One such pairing features Tara Donovan alongside Agnes Martin. Reflecting on Martin's work, Donovan wrote the following essay.


Agnes Martin, Untitled #2, 1990, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 72” × 72” (182.9 cm × 182.9 cm) © 2019 Estate of Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Tara Donovan

Agnes Martin’s work is a testament to her understanding that the experience of art should always privilege an emotional response. The simple, reductive strategies inherent to her practice produced the serene abstractions that demand hushed contemplation from observers. In this quiet, however, there always enters (in my experience) a meditative rhythm inspired by her geometric formats, repetitive lines, and subtle shifts of color and tone. I have always related to the kind of struggle exemplified in her work between the consistent pursuit of perfection and the acknowledgement that it cannot be achieved—which has nothing to do with failure per se, but rather about finding motivation from chasing the elusive.

Art work that is completely abstract—free from any expression of the environment is like music and can be responded to in the same way. Our response to line and tone and color is the same as our response to sounds. And like music abstract art is thematic. It holds meaning for us that is beyond expressions in words." —Agnes Martin, 1975

Agnes Martin

I was actually thinking about music when titling my series of Compositions (Cards). As I was making the work, I was contending with the obvious physical composition of densely layered cards, but something more rhythmic and fleeting began to emerge as I experimented further with the spacing of the cards. The linear surface began to act more and more as a screen laid over the top of a field with sculptural depth. I began to think of the process as a very manual form of lenticular printing, where offsetting layers create the illusion of depth and movement on a static surface. The works demand a kind of choreography from the observer as each shifting viewpoint registers as a visual tempo.


Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2019, Styrene cards and glue, 39-1/4" × 39-1/4" × 4" (99.7 cm × 99.7 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2019, Styrene cards and glue, 39-1/4" × 39-1/4" × 4" (99.7 cm × 99.7 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan

  • Essays — Tara Donovan on Agnes Martin, Nov 26, 2019