Tate Modern: Exhibition 3 June – 11 October 2015
Agnes Martin in her studio © Mildred Tolbert Family
Agnes Martin is perhaps most recognised for her evocative paintings marked out in subtle pencil lines and pale colour washes. Although restrained, her style was underpinned by her deep conviction in the emotive and expressive power of art. Martin believed that spiritual inspiration and not intellect created great work. ‘Without awareness of beauty, innocence and happiness’ Martin wrote ‘one cannot make works of art’.
Martin lived and worked in New York, becoming a key figure in the male-dominated fields of 1950s and 1960s abstraction. Then in 1967, just as her art was gaining acclaim, Martin abandoned the city and went in search of solitude and silence. For almost two years she travelled across the US and Canada before finally settling in New Mexico as Georgia O’Keeffe, Mark Rothko, DH Lawrence and Edward Hopper had done before her. Working within tightly prescribed limits she imposed on her own practice Martin was able to continue to make extraordinary, visionary paintings, for over three decades until her death in 2004.
This is the first retrospective of Martin’s work since 1994. Covering the full breadth of her practice, this extensive exhibition will reveal Martin’s early and little known experiments with different media and trace her development from biomorphic abstraction to the mesmerising grid and striped canvases that became her hallmark.
Painting, as she said, with her “back to the world,” and managing mental illness that afflicted her throughout her adult life, she sustained a unique and subtly powerful vocabulary that drew international acclaim.
Agnes Martin often talked about her interest in music and in the emotions that she felt when listening to it. Join us for a classical music concert performed by the Ensemble Kandinsky, Switzerland. Uniquely set in the Agnes Martin exhibition, surrounded by the artist’s late paintings, the programme includes specially selected music by John Cage, Arvo Pärt, Johann Sebastian Bach, Toro Takemitsu, John Adams and Augusta Read Thomas.It’s not about facts, it’s about feelings. I think the highest form of art is music. It’s the most abstract of all art expression.
For Agnes Martin, music was the art form that most closely resembled the ideal of unconditional abstraction, inviting a multiplicity of responses and emotions. This programme includes works by Martin’s musical contemporaries as well as compositions from earlier centuries, inviting you to explore the connections between visual, musical and emotional abstraction.
Talks and lectures
Wednesday 10 June 2015, 18.30 – 20.00
Monday 6 July 2015, 18.30 – 19.30
Wednesday 15 July 2015, 18.30 – 20.00
Monday 28 September 2015, 18.30 – 20.30