Homage to [a] Life: Paintings 1990-2004
Beacon, New York— The fifth and final installment in an ongoing series of exhibitions devoted to Agnes Martin’s work, “Homage to [a] Life: Paintings 1990–2004,” will be on view at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, from April 6 through November 26, 2007. Organized by Dia Art Foundation, this presentation of some twenty paintings produced during the last decade of Martin’s career culminates a career-long survey.
Dia’s retrospective began in May 2004 with “…going forward into unknown territory…,” which featured works from 1957 to 1967, when Martin lived and worked in New York City. The second installation, “…unknown territory…,” highlighted paintings from the mid-1960s. “To The Islands,” the third presentation in the series, explored the period from 1974 through 1979, when Martin resumed painting after a seven-year hiatus. The fourth installment, “A Field of Vision,” focused on her practice during the 1980s.
“Homage to [a] Life” features works from the prolific years in Martin’s late career. Exploring both horizontal and vertical fields, Martin remained dedicated to pushing the formal possibilities of her luminous compositions. Adopting a smaller, five-by-five-foot dimension for her canvases in 1993, she also continued her long-standing preoccupation with themes of innocence, joy, and happiness, frequently titling her paintings to evoke these states. A highlight in the exhibition is the Innocent Love series, an eight-part suite of paintings commissioned by Dia in 1999. WithInnocent Love, Martin sought what she called an “untroubled state of mind,” producing works that seem to emanate light rather than reflect it.
Exceptional among these signature paintings from her final years are the anomalous “black” paintings from 2002–2003. Informed by a more foreboding or disturbing tenor, they are dominated by viscous black acrylic, one or two simple geometric forms, and an impastoed, at times gestural, markmaking. While seemingly a radical departure from her practice over the previous four decades, several works echo the exploratory paintings she made after first moving to New York in the late 1950s. “Homage to [a] Life” will be installed in a trio of galleries at Dia:Beacon. The title is taken from “Agnes Martin: Homage to Life,” the last exhibition of Martin’s work during her lifetime. A brochure with color images of Martin’s paintings and an essay by Dia Art Foundation curator Lynne Cooke will accompany the exhibition.
Dia Art Foundation’s collection of Agnes Martin’s work comprises approximately twenty paintings, which range from early, formative works to later canvases. Dia has received promised gifts and long-term loans of Martin’s work from Lannan Foundation, Louise and Leonard Riggio, the artist, and anonymous donors. Among the highlights of these gifts is the Innocent Love series, which is on long-term loan from the Lannan Foundation.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of the Dedalus Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Agnes Martin was born in Macklin, Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1912. She grew up in Vancouver, then moved to Bellingham, Washington, in 1932. Martin gained a BA in 1942 and an MA in 1952 from Teachers College at Columbia University, New York, while intermittently living in New Mexico. In 1957 she relocated to Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan, where her neighbors included the artists Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, James Rosenquist, Leonore Tawney, and Ann Wilson. Martin had her first one-person exhibition in 1958 at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York. After ten years in Manhattan, she returned to the Southwest and lived and worked in Taos, New Mexico, until her death on December 16, 2004. Surveys of Martin’s work have been presented at venues including the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1973), the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1991), and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1992). She was awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1997 and a National Endowment for the National Medal of Arts in 1988, among other awards. In 1997 the Agnes Martin Gallery at the Harwood Museum of Art and the University of New Mexico was established.
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