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Back to Reviews 96

Portrait of Agnes
Martin, New Mexico

by Charles R. Rushton
Courtesy Pace Gallery

racing forms
by p.c. smith
a gallery tip sheet

Agnes Martin
at Pace Wildenstein

Jan. 16-Feb. 15, 1997

The latest permutations of 84-year-old Agnes Martin's horizontal, wide-banded compositions introduce new colors: pale, atmospheric blues, yellows and yellow-orange, painted in acrylic washes so thin that these works should probably be termed watercolors. Horizontal, ruled pencil lines are clearly visible beneath the slightly spongy-textured color. Although Martin once lived on Coenties Slip in downtown Manhattan and exhibited at Betty Parsons, and works in rectangular grids, her temperament has always seemed closer to West Coast figures like John McLaughlin and Robert Irwin than the New York Minimalists. Her delicate touch suggests meditative emptying rather than systemic addition. Her work's horizontality makes her compositions seem less like building structures and more like landscape and atmospheric light-- Martin paints in a hand-built adobe studio outside Taos. Still, her insistence on the rectangular grid as the underlying principle of organization, and even as the image of "perfection," is unimaginative and completely in collusion with the architecture of institutionalized academicism.