Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Explorations in Line / notes from a first-time curator


Over many years of wandering through exhibits of contemporary work, there have been numerous group shows that leave me nodding in recognition of the wonderful conversations taking place on the gallery walls. It is so very satisfying when a curator's decisions offer me new insights into what I am looking at. But there are also occasions where I leave a gallery scratching my head, struggling to understand what led to the selection of the work. While I might engage with specific works in the exhibit, I still wonder why they are hanging together. A curator's statement may help me see connections that I had missed on my own, but sometimes it is difficult to discern how what is on the walls reflects what is in the statement.

That got me wondering..... How do curators go about their work? Where do they start -- with the ideas or with the art? How do they move from selecting the work to exhibit to articulating a clear vision about that work? What is the role of a curator's statement? I decided to investigate, not only by speaking with artists who have curated exhibits, but by jumping in and organizing a show. For this post, I am focusing on my experience as curator of "Explorations in Line", currently on exhibit at the Garrison Art Center, NY. For anyone who has already curated exhibits, my observations are likely familiar and obvious. 



Drawings by Tamar Zinn (left) and photographs by Tenesh Webber (right) at the Garrison Art Center


My starting point for this exhibit was my own work, specifically the drawings about line that I've done for the past five years. I've been thinking about and making lines for quite some time.... decades actually. As a teenager doing my first figure drawings, I preferred the quick sketches -- capturing a pose in two minutes or less. What held me enthralled was the gesture, the movement of my hand to make the line. Although I did my share of thoughtfully developed studies of the figure, those drawings felt more like technical accomplishments, and as such, didn't particularly interest me once they were completed. Line as a reflection of emotion, line that captured an action, a line that was the action.... that is what I found engaging. Why not curate an exhibit around line?  
Step 1 (which should have been obvious but wasn't) as artist / curator: think about what interests me in my own work.

After that, I began compiling images from artists whose work I was already familiar with that incorporated line in some significant way. Paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs -- all readily available online, which made this initial task easy. And then I started looking, looking, looking at what I had accumulated....  and the images sorted themselves into two groups -- maybe and no. It was only at that point that I tried to understand why some pieces held my attention, but not others.  Step 2: look first, think later.


Opening night: Tamar Zinn, Jaanika Peerna, and Tenesh Webber. On the wall, Jaanika Peerna: Withheld, and Tamar Zinn: drawings from the Pavane series.  (Photo by Harry Wilks)


Of course, curating is about noticing. I looked at the work again and again, to see beyond my first impressions. At that point I started to write notes about what I saw, thinking about the what, why, and how of each artist's work, and searching for a way to articulate my observations with clarity. As the maybe group gradually shrank to a manageable size, I started reading. Artists' websites sometimes provided a wealth of information, sometimes not so much.
Step 3: take notes about my observations and start reading about the artists.

 
Photographs by Tenesh Webber. (For complete image information, see below)


At that point, I felt it was time to think about different iterations of an exhibit about line. What if there were 3-4 artists, whose work would I select? What would be the premise of that show? What if the exhibit included work by as many as 7-8 artists? How would that shape the focus of the show? I decided on  a show with fewer artists, which would allow for multiple pieces from each artist. I also began to discuss my plans to curate a show with several close artist friends whom I could rely on for meaningful feedback. With their help, I made the final selection of artists for my first venture as curator.  Step 4: select the artists and narrow the focus. 


Jaanika Peerna, Drooplines, 2017, graphite and colored pencil on hand-cut mylar, magnets, 24x7x8"  (photo courtesy of Jaanika Peerna)


After contacting the artists and confirming their interest in the exhibit, I began to write, as well as consider possible venues. I was lucky that I did not have to do a lot of research to find a venue, because a friend let me know about an upcoming deadline to submit proposals to the Garrison Art Center. That meant that the language for the proposal would have to come together very quickly. Fortunately, the notes I had already written provided a framework for the proposal, and I had already gathered images to include. Proposal submitted, it was now time to wait.
Step 5: seek out venues and write a proposal.

A few months after submitting the proposal, I received word that it had been accepted and that the exhibition would take place a year later. That gave me more than enough time to study the floor plan for the space, print out scaled images to tape onto a model, arrange, re-arrange, and arrange once again. I was already familiar with the gallery space, but I visited once again to try and picture the work in the space. Since I had already seen Tenesh Webber's photographs on exhibit, and I was certain of which work I wanted to include, I made my selection from her website. I had also seen Jaanika Peerna's work on exhibit and had made a preliminary selection, but decided to do a studio visit so I could see additional work. As it turned out, I ultimately went with my initial selection for Jaanika's work as well. 
Step 6: make the final selection of works, and lay out the exhibition.

Jaanika Peerna, Withheld, 2017, water soluble pigment on hand-cut mylar, magnets, 88x17x7"   (photo courtesy of Jaanika Peerna)

With the work selected, what remained was for me the most challenging part -- writing a curator's statement that would be meaningful for me and be useful for viewers. I had read many superb statements that enhanced my understanding of the exhibits, as well as many that left me mystified. The language that would shape my statement came slowly and went through many, many, many iterations. Once again, I was fortunate to have an artist friend (who is also a superb editor) give me feedback in crafting the statement.
Step 7: write the curator's statement

These are the opening paragraphs of my curator's statement:  

 Explorations in Linehighlights the vital role of line in the work of three contemporary abstract artists. Working in sculpture, photography, and drawing, Jaanika Peerna, Tenesh Webber, and Tamar Zinn use line as a thing unto itself, an embodiment of thought and sensation, rather than as a means to depict form. Having chosen to make line central to their work, all three artists employ a stripped-down, largely monochromatic palette. By limiting the palette primarily to black and white, with occasional hints of other colors, the artists allow viewers to immerse themselves more fully in all that their lines express. For these artists a line may manifest breath, communicate movement, embody emotion, or reflect natural phenomena. In “Explorations in Line,” some lines declare themselves soloists, while others dance –- and sometimes wrestle –- with one another. These lines transform the space they inhabit and shape how we perceive that space. Peerna’s dimensional use of cut mylar gives her lines a palpable physical presence, Webber’s threadlines leave their trace on exposed photographic paper, while Zinn's paired lines are gently embedded in indeterminate space. Each artist’s line is deeply personal, not only in what it conveys, but in the nature of its making.
The exhibit offers viewers the opportunity to observe the artists’ conscious decisions about a line's direction, weight, and speed. Peerna’s lines, which begin as strong verticals drawn on a flat plane, transform when the drawing is shaped into sculpture. The repeated translucent lines curve, loop, and fold back on themselves, seemingly without beginning or end. Webber’s delicate lines meander across a black field and present as a grid on a photographic image. Although periodically disrupted, the fragile networks of lines are seemingly held in place. Zinn's dark lines move leisurely across an atmospheric field, but their weight imbues them with conviction, as well as suggesting that they continue on beyond the field’s edge. While Peerna's lines are drawn using spontaneous full-body movements, Zinn rehearses her gestures in the air in anticipation of marking each pair of lines on the paper, and Webber incorporates chance actions into her arrays. 
  
The complete curator's statement is below (after the exhibit images), and also provides information the intention and process of each artist.

Tenesh Webber, Clear View 2, 2016, silver gelatin print, 20x20"


Tenesh Webber, Loose String 1, 2013, silver gelatin print, 20x20"
Tenesh Webber, Lift Version 2, 2015, silver gelatin print, 11x11"


Tenesh Webber, Loops 1, 2015, silver gelatin print, 11x11"

Tenesh Webber, Quake, 2015, silver gelatin print, 11x11"



Of course, if you plan an exhibit, people have to know about it. So I started planning the publicity, and limited it to social media and an email blast. Next up was the installation. Although I had made a detailed layout for the exhibit, I had no prior experience actually hanging a show. I was fortunate that the gallery coordinator at Garrison Art Center, Samantha Palmieri, took over that task after we arranged the work in the gallery. It was thrilling to see what I had envisioned less than 18 months earlier come together in the space. It was everything I had imagined, and even better.
Step 8: start the PR work for the show 
Step 9: deliver the work and install the show

My first experience curating an exhibit has all been positive -- I had support from friends, worked with artists who came through reliably, and gallery staff that was professional. I know it won't always go this smoothly, but I'm ready for the next step.
Step 10: start thinking about the next exhibit.


Tamar Zinn, Pavane 26, 2017, pigmented charcoal and conte crayon on paper, 16x9"

Tamar Zinn, Pavane 18, 2017, pigmented charcoal and conte crayon on paper, 16x9"

Tamar Zinn, Pavane 41, 2017, pigmented charcoal and conte crayon on paper, 16x9"


Tamar Zinn, Pavane 30, 2017, pigmented charcoal and conte crayon on paper, 16x9"


Tamar Zinn, Pavane 21, 2017, pigmented charcoal and conte crayon on paper, 1x9"

Tamar Zinn, Pavane 13, 2017, pigmented charcoal and conte crayon on paper, 16x9"

My curator's statement:
 
 Explorations in Linehighlights the vital role of line in the work of three contemporary abstract artists. Working in sculpture, photography, and drawing, Jaanika Peerna, Tenesh Webber, and Tamar Zinn use line as a thing unto itself, an embodiment of thought and sensation, rather than as a means to depict form. Having chosen to make line central to their work, all three artists employ a stripped-down, largely monochromatic palette. By limiting the palette primarily to black and white, with occasional hints of other colors, the artists allow viewers to immerse themselves more fully in all that their lines express. For these artists a line may manifest breath, communicate movement, embody emotion, or reflect natural phenomena. In “Explorations in Line,” some lines declare themselves soloists, while others dance –- and sometimes wrestle –- with one another. These lines transform the space they inhabit and shape how we perceive that space. Peerna’s dimensional use of cut mylar gives her lines a palpable physical presence, Webber’s threadlines leave their trace on exposed photographic paper, while Zinn's paired lines are gently embedded in indeterminate space. Each artist’s line is deeply personal, not only in what it conveys, but in the nature of its making.
The exhibit offers viewers the opportunity to observe the artists’ conscious decisions about a line's direction, weight, and speed. Peerna’s lines, which begin as strong verticals drawn on a flat plane, transform when the drawing is shaped into sculpture. The repeated translucent lines curve, loop, and fold back on themselves, seemingly without beginning or end. Webber’s delicate lines meander across a black field and present as a grid on a photographic image. Although periodically disrupted, the fragile networks of lines are seemingly held in place. Zinn's dark lines move leisurely across an atmospheric field, but their weight imbues them with conviction, as well as suggesting that they continue on beyond the field’s edge. While Peerna's lines are drawn using spontaneous full-body movements, Zinn rehearses her gestures in the air in anticipation of marking each pair of lines on the paper, and Webber incorporates chance actions into her arrays.
                 Jaanika Peerna’s sculpture is a direct response to natural phenomena of light, air, and water. Peerna begins by drawing lines on frosted Mylar with a series of vigorous, physical movements, then alters the lines by sweeping across them with a damp, oversized brush. She then systemically slices across the drawn lines, creating a series of parallel strips that she subsequently shapes into three-dimensional forms. As the sculpture responds to the forces of gravity, the lines droop, bend and flow. Her lines become the space, rather than merely inhabiting it. Peerna’s sculptures are further transformed by light and shadow, as well as by the changing position of the viewer. For Peerna, each piece is a manifestation of flux—ever changing, never static.
In the work of Tenesh Webber, the interplay between technical control and chance manipulations is a central element. Working within a minimalist sensibility and aligned with improvisational abstraction, Webber takes the controlled structure of the grid as a starting point and then allows unplanned operations to direct the outcome. Using a process that blurs the boundaries among sculpture, drawing, and photography, Webber manipulates and layers Japanese beading thread to create a grid, which is then placed onto photographic paper and exposed to light. In the resulting image, called a photogram, white lines are set against a seemingly endless black field. Although the image is fixed, the disruption to the network of filaments creates a sense of impermanence, of structures distorted, but unbroken.
                  Tamar Zinn’s drawings are rooted in her deeply emotional connections to both classical music and modern dance. Recollections of intertwining lines of music prompt a sensory response, which she transforms into a lyrical duet of gestures. Zinn begins by creating an atmospheric field, methodically rubbing layers of pigmented charcoal into the fibers of the paper. As she readies herself to draw the lines, auditory memories couple with movements of her arm above the paper. She captures the speed and shape of those movements by drawing the lines and then gently merging them into the field. Once drawn, the lines cannot be altered, making her process at once meditative and filled with risk.   

 Photos from the installation:
Jaanika Peerna installing Withheld.

Tamar Zinn and Jaanika Peerna (photo by Harry Wilks)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Beyond Black and White @ Westbeth Gallery

In a natural world that is resplendent with color, why do so many artists produce extensive bodies of work limited to a palette of black and white? And why does this work exert such a powerful hold on our gaze?

Over the past year, there have been many exhibits focused on black and white paintings and works on paper. A brief list includes a current exhibition at The National Gallery in London, Monochrome: Painting in Black and White (both abstraction and figurative work from Rembrandt to Richter); a 2017 exhibit at The Tampa Museum of Art titled Alex Katz: Black and White; and an exhibit of exquisite black and white drawings and paintings by Dozier Bell at Danese Corey in New York. I recently posted about a 2017 exhibit at the Curator Gallery in New York, Almost Black and White.
 
Cris Gianakos (left) and Sharon Brant (right)


2018 begins with yet another exhibit devoted to painting in black and white, Beyond Black and White at Westbeth Gallery in NY.  This is a large group exhibit of black and white abstraction by 38 artists. It includes work that demonstrates a variety of preoccupations  --  paintings that are seductively austere, others that are intricately patterned, and still other paintings that focus on materiality. Curated by Li Trincere and Henry Brown, the exhibit offers a glimpse of the richness that is possible within the parameters of working in black and white. 

Michael Scott

Ken Wade


As I've written previously on this blog  (Almost Black and White, Painting in Black and White), rather than being restrictive, working with black and white can open up a world rich with possibilities for visual artists. Although the phrase 'black and white' sounds direct and clear, there is nothing simple about the decision to work in black and white.

Black isn't merely black, and white isn't just white -- either hue can be cool or warm, flat or expansive. The painted surface may be matte, reflective, chalky, silky smooth or coarsely pitted. For some of these artists, working with black and white will also mean exploring the vast arena of grays. Without the inevitable and often unwanted associations that accompany a more expansive palette, a painter is free to concentrate more fully on preoccupations with form and geometry, pattern and surface. 

This post includes a selection of the 38 paintings on exhibit. The show is up through January 27th at Westbeth Gallery, 55 Bethune Street, New York.  

Ivo Ringe

Karen Schifano

Kim Uchiyama

Mark Williams

Douglas Witmer

Lisa Beck


David Rhodes (left) and Li Trincere (right)


David Seccombe (left), Joan Witek (center), and Jean Wolff (right)


Dan Walsh

Patricia Zarate


Rene Pierre Allain (left) and Henry Brown (right)

Laura Duerwald (left) and Gelah Penn (right)

Melissa Kretschmer


Thursday, October 12, 2017

ALMOST BLACK and WHITE @ The Curator Gallery

Douglas Witmer  /  Laura Duerwald  /  Diane Tate DallasKidd

Installation view with paintings by Douglas Witmer / photo courtesy of The Curator Gallery

For readers familiar with my preoccupation with painting in black and white, it will come as no surprise that I was eager to see this exhibit. As I wrote in a post several years ago, describing a painting (or anything else for that matter) as 'black and white' appears to be straightforward. However, no matter what the context, blacks and whites are complex, varied, and often filled with subtlety. As colors in the toolbox of a visual artist, they can be warm or cool, dense or atmospheric, luminous or flat. While describing a situation as black and white suggests it can be viewed with clarity, what appears to be a black and white painting is often something quite complex. From a distance, the surface of a painting might look smooth and unarticulated, the forms within it sharp and decisive, but closer examination may reveal a painterly history of loose brushwork, blobs and scratches, as well as edges that are anything but declarative.

By shaping this exhibit around paintings that are mostly black and white, it offers an opportunity to consider what is distinctive about the intention and process of each artist, since their work is already linked by palette. This is not to suggest that the reduced palette is of little consequence, but rather that the context of the exhibit opens up additional avenues for looking at their work. It is also worth examining the role that geometry plays in the work of each of these artists as an additional thread connecting the paintings on exhibit.

Installation view with paintings by Diane Tate DallasKidd (left) and Laura Duerwalkd (right) / photo courtesy of The Curator Gallery
   
DOUGLAS WITMER
The paintings of Witmer exert a quiet, but insistent hold on this viewer. They beckon patiently and provide an opportunity for extended dialogue. Each painting opens up a broad perceptual space for those willing to take the time to engage with it and while generally intimate in size, each painting offers a sense of expansive space. Witmer's materials, limited to black gesso and acrylic on canvas, belie the complexity of the work.
 
DOUGLAS WITMER  Untitled, 2017 (left) and Untitled, 2017 (right).  black gesso and acrylic on canvas. 10 x 8" each

Witmer's geometry is most often soft-edged, and his compositions spare, lending an aura of possibility, rather than certainty. The tentative geometry along the edges of each painting indicates a preference for suggestion, which seems central to Witmer's intention. While in several paintings Witmer makes a more emphatic statement with his geometry, the thin veils of paint, matte surfaces, and subtle variations across the field express ambiguity, rather than inevitability. 

DOUGLAS WITMER  Winterbrook (six panel set), 2017   black gesso and acrylic on canvas    17x14" each

In a nod to the 'almost' in the exhibit title, one canvas by Witmer most emphatically steps beyond the limits of black and white. Considerably larger than the rest of his paintings in the exhibit When In Doubt, 2015, 48x37", has a commanding presence in the gallery. It combines a more defined geometry with an intensely saturated blue field--a seeming contradiction to the painting's title. Nonetheless, Witmer steps back from that certainty in his handling of the edges of the painting. His paintings are an invitation to wonder, rather than a directive of what to think or see.


DOUGLAS WITMER  When In Doubt, 2015  black gesso and acrylic on canvas   48 x 37"  /  photo courtesy of The Curator Gallery


LAURA DUERWALD
Duerwald has work from two series on exhibit (all dated 2017)--one boldly geometric and the other more pattern-based. Although not apparent when viewed from a distance, these paintings are actually collaged constructions (incorporating acrylic, graphite, paper, and wax over either canvas or linen). 

Installation view with paintings by LAURA DUERWALD

LAURA DUERWALD  Telemark XXVIII, 2017     graphite, acrylic, paper, wax on canvas over panel   24 x 20"
 
LAURA DUERWALD  left to right: Telemark XXIV, Telemark XXIII, Telemark XXI, 2017    acrylic, graphite, paper, wax on canvas over panel      each 16 x 12"

In contrast to Witmer's generally unobtrusive presence, Duerwald more directly demands our attention, particularly with the hard-edged geometry of the Telemark series. Her idiosyncratic black forms are balanced by white areas that are peppered with marks. While the geometry in these paintings is unequivocal, the edges of each form are nuanced and somewhat irregular, and the black fields are filled with subtle atmosphere. Duerwald balances the seeming certainty of her geometry with the ambiguity of her mark-making. 

Duerwald's Template paintings appear to loosely reference printed textiles. A wedge-like mark is repeated and varies in density as it moves across the surface. Closer examination reveals that these paintings have been painstakingly constructed through a repetitive process of painting and tearing numerous scraps of paper, and then affixing them to the canvas in gently undulating rows. Unlike the defined geometry of the Telemark paintings, these paintings have a more tentative, suggestive quality to them, despite the black and white palette.


LAURA DUERWALD  Template (Too Soon To Say Goodbye), 2017    acrylic, graphite, paper, wax on linen   42 x 60"

   LAURA DUERWALD   Detail from a Template painting


DIANE TATE DALLASKIDD
DallasKidd employs a systematic approach to her investigation of form and planes. Many of the works on exhibit depict the spatial effects of folding and flattening a rectangular, two-dimensional form. The paintings create the illusion of space as each folded and flattened sheet floats within a spare field, at times anchored along the painting's edge, but often disengaged from the edges. In an array of 9 small (8 x 10") paintings titled "Coming Undone", she offers many different manifestations of that exploration. While Duerwald's paintings are collaged constructions, DallasKidd creates illusion of collage by painting hard-edged, richly textured planes. 

DIANE TATE DALLASKIDD   Page 1, 2017   acrylic on wood panel    24 x 18"   /   photo courtesy of The Curator Gallery




DIANE TATE DALLASKIDD  Coming Undone No. 5, 2017   acrylic on wood panel   8x10"   /   photo courtesy of The Curator Gallery

DIANE TATE DALLASKIDD  Coming Undone No. 6, 2017   acrylic on wood panel   8x10"   /   photo courtesy of The Curator Gallery

Almost Black and White   /  through October 28  / The Curator Gallery   /  520 West 23rd St. NYC

Monday, December 12, 2016

The power of art to transcend despair

MARK ROTHKO   (currently on exhibit at Pace Gallery)

I write in an effort to escape, if only for a short while, the intense agitation and despair that have engulfed me for most of the past year. I have no desire to dwell on the circumstances that brought us here, for that would provide no relief whatsoever. I know that for my emotional and spiritual sanity, I must regain some balance in my life. I cannot let my fears about the future of our country and the world overpower everything that makes life meaningful for me. At the same time, I fully recognize that our lives as Americans have been forever changed and that I cannot retreat from my engagement with the world.

It is through the arts, as well as the natural world, that I find solace, beauty, joy, humor, sadness, and brilliance. They have the power to surprise and provoke me. They remind me of what is good in the world. 

Three current exhibits (all on view in New York through early January) have exerted a powerful hold on my emotions and remain very present in my thoughts. I don't presume to have any significant insights into the work of these three artists. I can only describe what I experience when in the presence of the work.

Apologies for the limited information in the captions. For the Rothko exhibit, the gallery did not make complete information about the paintings available to the public. For the works by Herrera and Martin, it is my own sloppiness in not having kept track of the information.


MARK ROTHKO:  Dark Palette @ Pace (through January 7, 2017)

MARK ROTHKO
Given my sense of despair, it might seem odd that this exhibit of darkly-hued paintings would lift the gloom from off my shoulders. But that is precisely what happened as soon as I was surrounded by Rothko's paintings. Rather than imparting a feeling of melancholy, I found most of the paintings rich with quiet intensity that produced a feeling of serenity. The sense of space in each painting is vast and continually shifting--but their instability is somehow comforting. Each painting hovers between certainty and mutability, the edges of the color fields defined, yet undefined. In one painting the vibrant glow along the edges of a field is filled with drama, while in another painting, the edges nearly disappear. My experience with these paintings was one of wonder and tranquility. 

For more information about the Rothko exhibit, click here.

MARK ROTHKO
MARK ROTHKO
MARK ROTHKO


CARMEN HERRERA:  Lines of Sight @ Whitney Museum (through January 9, 2017)

CARMEN HERRERA   Paintings from the series Days of the Week

In contrast with the introspective experience of the Rothko exhibit, Herrera's bold geometric abstractions brought me feelings of of joyful vitality. The exhibit focuses on just a thirty-year span, 1948-1978, in Herrera's very long life (she continues to paint at the age of 101!)  

A wonderful suite of seven paintings from the late 1970s, Days of the Week, is installed on a long wall opposite the elevators. In keeping with Herrera's tendency to limit her palette, each of the paintings in this series is executed in black plus one other color. The offer up exuberance and clarity. I was also drawn to the very elegant Blanco y Verde paintings from the 1960s. This work is defined by a pared down, asymmetrical geometry and limited to green and white elements, which continually shift between figure and ground. In another room is a large group of Herrera's Estructuras--painted would sculptures, some mounted on the walls and others free-standing on the floor. The formal elements of these constructions sometimes parallel the geometry of her paintings, but here the interplay is between figure and empty space, rather than the figure / ground of the paintings. 

For more information about the Herrera exhibit, click here.
For an article about the Herrera exhibit, click here.

CARMEN HERRERA   Painting from the Blanco y Verde series

CARMEN HERRERA   Painting from the Blanco y Verde series

CARMEN HERRERA   From the Estructuras series

CARMEN HERRERA   Work on paper



AGNES MARTIN  @  Guggenheim Museum (through January 11, 2017) 

AGNES MARTIN   from a 1980s series titled Grey Paintings

Since I am unlikely to offer any meaningful insights that would add to the discussion of Martin's work, I'll limit my comments to how I experience her work. As of this writing, I've visited this majestic and comprehensive exhibit three times and have only started to digest what I've seen. 

N.B. The narrow black bands along the edges of some paintings are the frames and not part of the paintings.  

What is immediately apparent is Martin's doggedness in pursuit of, step by minute step, the seemingly limitless variations that were possible within each 'theme' that captured her interest. Her repeated experimentation -- with infinitesimal shifts in palette, compositional structure, and mark making -- makes her paintings and drawings an endless source of pleasure for slow-lookers like me. The more time I spend with each work, the more I see. But I'm never certain if what I see is in the paint or is my perception of the paint --  pale, pale tints of colors appear and disappear, a very diffused light seems to gently move across the surface.

Another element of her work that grabs me by the gut is its tenderness -- when you move in quite close you can see the frailty of her pencil lines and the irregularity along the edges of her color bands. The mark of her hand is always present. What may appear to be a rigidly painted grid or a precisely drawn series of lines when viewed from a distance is transformed upon close examination. While the overall composition of Martin's mature work is generally quite restrained, the fields are filled with variegated grounds and stains. Clearly, the compositional framework suggests order, but the execution of each work suggests deep emotion. 
   
For more information about the Agnes Martin exhibit at the Guggenheim, click here.
For more information about Agnes Martin Grey Paintings, click here.
 
AGNES MARTIN   White Flower, 1960  (from the Guggenheim Museum website)


AGNES MARTIN   The Sea, 2003

AGNES MARTIN   Detail from I love the whole world, 1999

AGNES MARTIN   Detail from White Flower, 1960   (the color cast may be incorrect)


AGNES MARTIN   Untitled, 2004

AGNES MARTIN  

If looking at the paintings in this post has given you some comfort in this difficult time, then I have done some good.  If this post sends you off to see the exhibits for the first time, or the fifth time, even better. If looking at these paintings gives you the courage to engage in the difficult work that lies ahead of us, I look forward to joining you in the streets.