Though her paintings, like those of the Abstract Expressionists, convey an emotional content, Agnes Martin cultivated a more delicate approach to her compositions, using pale washes of color and faint pencil marks rather than expressive gestures. As well, though her works’ formal regularity and incorporation of the grid align them with minimalism, she drew on Taoist and Buddhist teachings about heightened perception to imbue her compositions with spiritual or meditative qualities—a strategy that did not fit neatly with Minimal art’s empirical concerns. In Untitled #2, a series of thin horizontal lines breaks the square composition into rectangles. In 1972, she wrote: “My formats are square, but the grids never are absolutely square; they are rectangles, a bit off the square, making a sort of contradiction, a dissonance…When I cover the square surface with rectangles, it lightens the weight of the square, destroys its power.”
Agnes Martin (b. 1912, Macklin, Canada; d. 2004, Taos, New Mexico)
Untitled #2, 1977
India ink, graphite, and gesso on canvas
72 x 72 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Barry Lowen Collection