photo cred Montsho

Tyler Hobbs, courtesy of the artist


‘Her Work Taught Me to Take a Closer Look’

Tyler Hobbs on Agnes Martin’s Enduring Power

Published Friday, Mar 23, 2023

Generative artist, creative coder, and painter Tyler Hobbs is known for his work in computational aesthetics, with the Fidenza NFT series among his most acclaimed projects. Hobbs makes use of digital, robotic, and traditional tools—including algorithms, mechanical plotters, and paint—as part of a process that has been shaped by the methodical and mathematical sensibilities of several 20th century artists. One of his greatest influences is Agnes Martin, whose painstaking calculations yielded meticulous abstractions in the form of intricate grids and bands of alternating colors. Martin sought to express a transcendent state of mind—or state of being—through her explorations of the sensorial and phenomenological effects of color and line.

Hobbs spoke with the gallery about Martin’s impact on his aesthetic point of view and his development as an artist on the occasion of QQL: Analogs, an exhibition of his new large-scale paintings on view at Pace’s 508 West 25th Street space in New York from March 30 to April 22. His statements, which follow below, have been edited and condensed.

The first work by Agnes Martin that I recall seeing was Untitled #5 (1984), a 72 x 72-inch all-gray painting at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. This was 10 or 12 years ago. I was struck by her ability to get the viewer to really slow down to appreciate the work. What’s wonderful about that painting are its details, which reveal subtle traces of Agnes’s process.

Several years later, I really discovered her body of work. Her grid paintings drew me in immediately and have captivated me ever since. Not only do they have an amazing purity, but, for me, they create an intensely enjoyable visual sensation.


Agnes Martin, Desert Flower, 1985, acrylic and pencil on linen, 72-1/8" x 72-1/8" (183.2 cm x 183.2 cm) © Agnes Martin, courtesy Melissa Goodwin & Robyn Lehr Caspare

As I get older and continue further into my artistic practice, my appreciation for Agnes only grows. At first, I took great pleasure in viewing her work without necessarily understanding why. Now, I feel it’s her philosophical attitude about her work that is the most compelling ingredient. The best way to say it is that her work is earnest—it is about sensation and beauty in the purest sense. It’s all there for the viewer to appreciate, right on the surface.

Agnes understood the importance of trusting your own perception and vision as an artist—a simple and freeing sentiment. She once said, “This is the attractiveness of art work. It is adventurous, strenuous, and joyful.” I don’t think I need anything else beyond that.

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Agnes Martin

Her work has taught me to take a closer look at things, and that level of attention opens up an entirely new way of experiencing and creating art. It’s not so much Minimalism as a movement that has influenced my work—it’s minimalist artists’ modes of thinking about structure and detail.


Agnes Martin, On A Clear Day, April 1, 1973, portfolio of 30 silkscreen prints on Japanese Rag paper, 12" x 12" (30.5 cm x 30.5 cm), 30 prints, each 3-1/2" x 15-3/4" x 15-3/4" (8.9 cm x 40 cm x 40 cm), portfolio box © Agnes Martin

Agnes’s systematic approach to her compositions, along with her deep and longstanding interest in the visual possibilities of the grid, are reflected in the ways that generative artists think about their work with algorithms. Grids are emblematic of the array—the fundamental data structure around which all computer hardware and software is built. So, the grid is a natural visual form for computer–based digital art, and the aesthetic implications of this are far-reaching. Anything built through programming is, at many levels, constructed through grids, and our digital visual language echoes that very clearly.

On a Clear Day—a series of 30 silkscreen prints on paper in which Agnes explored the geometric make ups of different gridded structures—has clear connections with generative art making, I think. For artists working with algorithms, it’s not a single image that is the work, but rather the exploration of an entire potential output space.

I love that Agnes’s work is engaged with both structure and disorder. She precisely measured and arranged every single element of her works, but there are still these almost imperceptible deviations that bear traces of her hand.

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Tyler Hobbs, QQL: Analog #7 (detail), 2023, oil and acrylic paint on panel & matching non-fungible token, 60" × 48" (152.4 cm × 121.9 cm) © Tyler Hobbs

I’m very interested in enactments of imperfection that separate digital aesthetics from analog aesthetics. Much of my work across algorithmic and physical mediums explores the idea of uniting the machine with the artist’s distinctive touch. The mechanical plotter is one of my preferred tools for physical work because it allows me to execute the structural component so effectively. In my painting practice, I feed code through the plotter to forge an overall composition and then refine details directly on my works’ surfaces. The idiosyncrasies that result in each painting bring the process and medium into focus.

As told to Claire Selvin

  • Essays — ‘Her Work Taught Me to Take a Closer Look’: Tyler Hobbs on Agnes Martin’s Enduring Power, Mar 24, 2023