Thursday, March 4, 2010

Agnes Martin Gallery at Harwood Museum

Last weekend I spent two days in a small guest house overlooking a small stream in Dixon, New Mexico. I discovered I'm a whiz at Blockus; I love falling to sleep to the sound of running water -- and I finally got to see Agnes Martin's paintings in person.

Seven of Martin's paintings are at The Harwood Museum in Taos, New Mexico. They are hung in a separate room, resembling a small chapel. The seven-walled room is dimly lit, an occulus overhead bathing the room in a diffuse, blueish light.

I tried so hard in the dim light to discern the surface, to see the brushstrokes. There was something there, hovering, but I couldn't pin it down. For some reason I'd expected thick surfaces -- like a Malevich. Instead, I found bands of washes in paleish blue-gray, matte, yet shimmery vibrating like the surface of water. And pale, neutral yellow-brown whites. It was work that you had to wait for. Sitting in the center, under the oculus, looking at these seven paintings became a meditative experience. Perhaps Martin successfully engages the viewer in not-thinking. Yet, she titles her work...

Here is a video of a 1997 interview with Martin:

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