Agnes Martin: Before the Grid
In early 1950, Canadian born artist Agnes Martin created her first semi-abstract work in Taos, New Mexico, where she lived and worked during the years 1954-1957. The biomorphic piece—involving abstract shapes that evoke living forms—was a serious effort to find a new language and visual vocabulary. She would continue with this style as late as 1959. In 1957 New York art dealer Betty Parsons saw Martin’s biomorphic work in Taos and offered to represent her and fund her move to New York City. At Parsons’ urging, Martin relocated from Taos to Coenties Slip in lower Manhattan.
By 1957, Agnes Martin's work had already begun to move from biomorphic shapes with big areas of gray and black to a more linear and grid-like approach. As this new vocabulary emerged Martin grew to disdain her earlier biomorphic work, destroying as many of those canvases as possible. While most of these works were irreparably damaged, some were given to other Taos artists to reuse, most notably to Beatrice Mandelman.
The biomorphics slowly gave way in a gentle shift of intent. During the biomorphic period Martin's style was related to the work of the Taos Moderns and a few other artists living and working in New Mexico. Although Martin’s palette would stay largely consistent, the transitional paintings became what Sean Scully referred to as " the New York Grid." These transitional paintings, together with her move to New York City, led to the formation of Agnes Martin as a fully realized and mature artist.
In 1995, The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos became home to the Agnes Martin Gallery, the artist having created seven paintings for the space that she had helped design. The Harwood has long considered itself the institutional home of Agnes Martin. It is with this sentiment that the Museum will host the centennial exhibit. The exhibit will feature the rarely seen biomorphic work of Agnes Martin from 1954-1959, as well as the transitional works tracing her subtle conversion from biomorphic shapes to linear grids.
Go here for information about programs and events related to this exhibition.
Agnes Martin: Before the Grid is made possible by the support of The Pace Gallery, The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, The Robert Lehman Foundation, the Fisher Family, The Harwood Museum Alliance, John E. and Jeanne T. Hughes Charitable Foundation, Anne and Burt Kaplan in memory of Burt Kaplan, Hannelore B. Schulhof Collection & Friend of Agnes Martin, Maryann Evans, Gregory Nelson, the Peters Family Art Foundation, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Tony Abeyta and Family, Rosamaria Ellis Clark, Aaron Payne Family, Carl and Dora Dillistone, Joy and Frank Purcell, Fred and Marcia Winter, The Historic Taos Inn and La Posada de Taos Bed and Breakfast.
Agnes Martin: Before the Grid is an Official Project of the New Mexico Centennial.