Monday, March 26, 2012

The power of place for artists

Mid-winter," oil on canvas, 33 x 48" 
Reading about new separate exhibitions of works by painters Agnes Martin (1912-2004)and Robert Diebenkorn (1922- 1993), I was struck by how profoundly each of these painters were affected by place. Martin is best known as a New York City artist making works using a minimalist delicate grid. What I didn't know is that before she arrived in NYC in her fifties at the urging of influential art dealer Betty Parsons, Martin was working in Taos in a semi-abstract, biomorphic style. The work has figurative qualities and is congruous with the regional work of "Taos Moderns" in the 1950s. Interestingly once she hit her stride in NYC (she was in her late 50s) with the "New York Grid," she became determined to literally destroy all of her earlier work. She actually made efforts to find sold pieces and buy them back in order to burn them. Those early Taos works are the subject of this exhibition at Harwood Museum of Art. 

Read a review of the exhibit and an account of Agnes Martin's determination to destroy her early works in Wall Street Journal

I have to say that not only do I prefer her early works, but this story has started me to consider how the place I live, Maine, informs what and how I paint.  Wondering how it would change were I to move to NYC, as I often dream of doing.

Credit: Mid-Winter (top)  Taos Municipal Schools Historic Art Collection, Taos, NM, copyright Agnes Martin/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Grid painting:  I could not find the title or collection for this piece.


  1. The grid painting is titled The Islands and is from the collection of Millie and Arne Glimcher. It was painted in 1961 and is on unbleached linen with graphite and acrylic. This particular painting is from Martin's final solo show at Betty Parsons.

  2. Thank you very much for this information.