Agnes Martin at Pace


View from the front door, looking in to the foyer

The impending October blizzard working its way up the coast may force Chelsea galleries to close early, but if not you have until the end of today, October 29, to see Agnes Martin, The 80’s: Grey Paintings at Pace Gallery on 25th Street.

I went to the opening on September 16 and foolishly didn’t take any pictures (the guards seemed somewhat more relaxed than usual). When I went back the following day to see the exhibition with fewer people around, the no-picture policy was firmly back in place. I’ve pulled a few images from the gallery website, which I’d urge you to visit.

Martin’s work has always been subtle, as you know. In these paintings her grays range from very light to very dark. The darkest paintings have their own room, all the better to see them in relation to one another, when the meditative rhythm of her horizontals and the variety of paint application becomes more apparent. Like opening your eyes in the dark, it takes a while for your vision to acclimate; the longer you look, the more you see.

Martin, whose centenary will be celebrated in 2012, has described her work as “memories of perfection.”  They are also perfection expressed materially.

Three views of the installation from the Pace Gallery website

Above: This vangtage point is from the entrance. The space, especially when there were few people, felt meditative, something I don't normally feel in this venue. I don't think I was alone in this perception, as the sound level was hushed, even when the gallery was relatively full. Some of the work is glazed, which makes the subtleties hard to see.

Below: Continuing counterclockwise, we glimpse the back gallery

Below: A view of the back gallery with the dark gray paintings. While there's a tonal range, there seems to be very little chromatic range in the grays, with a fairly consistent degree of temperature, neither warm nor cool. I wonder if they are simply mixtures of black and white. The surfaces vary, however, from light washes to more assertive applications of paint


* said...

I am sorry I missed this show. (Can't see everything, I guess.) Thanks for posting about it Joanne, not a substitute for being there, but at least gives a sense of the range of work, the hanging, etc. How can one not love A.M.'s paintings?


Tamar said...

A bit of synchronicity......... decided to take a second look at this show a couple of hours ago and came back to find your post. I spent a long time in the back room, with the darkest paintings. I found them exquisite and meditative. And you are absolutely correct, the longer you look, the more you see. The edges of horizontal stripes (or from my perspective, openings) waver ever so subtly across the paintings. Although there doesn't appear to be any modulation in color across the width of each reveal, the color darkens ever so slightly when it reaches the edges. Although from the distance the surfaces are flat, because these are painted on a nubby linen, up close you can see the texture of the surface. Truly wonderful.

Kate Beck said...

Thank you, Joanne

Kate Beck said...

Thank you, Joanne

Stephanie Sachs said...

Agnes Martin was a teacher of mine at Skowhegan. If I was to close my eyes and remember her the first image I get is her in a rocking chair on the porch of her cabin. Interesting that is the photo in the exhibit.

Kendra said...

Hi Joanne, coincidentally my friend and I were at the gallery the same day as you, fighting the snow. It is an interesting exhibit of work by a unique artist. I love the portrait of Agnes in her rocking chair.