Marking the most recent in its exhibitions from the estate of Agnes Martin, Pace Gallery’s The Distillation of Color delves back into the artist’s tightly-honed minimalism to explore her nuanced investigations of color, allowing subtle bands and hints at varied shades to pervade her works. For Martin, painting was defined by an ongoing exploration of its capacity to express a vision of beauty born of intuitive inspiration. In this most recent show, the gallery takes this concept and pushes it into the very notion of color as sensation.
Featuring a range of paintings from the 1970s to the early 1990s, from Martin’s multicolored striped works, to compositions of color-washed bands defined by hand-drawn lines, to the deep gray Black Paintings that characterized her work in the late 1980s, the exhibition examines Martin’s attentive use of color across a range of works and decades. It traces a distinct evolution within the context of the artist’s broadening vision during the latter half of her career, one that crystalized her pursuit of perfection and quest to deepen her understanding of painting unattached to emotion or subject, a meditative practice that rendered her works in taut, considered bands of color and densely layered lines.
The show takes Martin’s fascination with awareness and self-reflection and places it in the foreground, underscoring her move to New Mexico and her increasingly repetitive, iterative process. Following a five-year break from her studio work, Martin travelled widely across Canada and the United States, eventually arriving in New Mexico, where she began focusing in particular on her vertical and horizontal bands of color, arrived at through careful repetition. Martin’s interest in replicating her profound experience of its quiet solitude through abstract expression turned towards careful, parallel lines, vibrating in their close proximity, and filling the space of the canvas with a delicate and nuanced sense of color and space. This practice is traced through a range of color relations and projects, including studies into gray and white, yellow, and blue, each time using contrast and space to arrive at variations on the theme.
Exemplifying an expansion in Martin’s approach to color, these works suggest Martin’s interest in new possibilities of perception and experience, toward a purity of expression.
The show closes June 26th.
– C. Rhinehardt
Agnes Martin: The Distillation of Color [Pace Gallery]