Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin
p. 136

To those who are attuned to the subtleties of Agnes Martin's tender pastel stripes and grids, each new exhibition yields few surprises yet much pleasure. In keeping with her process, all of the 20 recent works in this presentation were rendered in a similar format: ruled pen and pencil lines, sometimes alternating, in combination with muted washes of watercolor on tissuelike 11-by-11-inch paper. As usual, within this square boundary, Martin's structure is made up of rectangles (she has said she finds squares "too stiff, too authoritative"). If one were to look for change, it could be found in a more liberal use of her still pale hues: pink, yellow, blue.

Martin's drawings are an even more personal expression than her paintings. Because of their delicacy and small scale, every nuance-smudges of graphite, a change in pencil pressure, a line that doesn't quite meet the edge-becomes more pronounced and meaningful. There is added texture, too, in the way the thin, fragile paper reacts with the watercolor to create a seersucker-like ruffle at the edges, and in the contrast this sets up with the hard line of the mat in which the drawing floats.

In all of Martin's work mathematical exactitude is countered by an unapologetically feminine sensibility. This equilibrium is even more evident in the drawings, which, while still contemplative, seem almost lighthearted. There is a subdued irony in lines drawn with such precision across capriciously puckered paper-a delicately wrought marriage of precision and accident.


-Carol Diehl