Agnes Martin: The Untroubled Mind/Works from the Daniel W. Dietrich II Collection is on view from 19 May until 14 October, 2018 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Though she began to paint at the age of 25, Martin did not have a solo exhibition until 1958. Her reputation was made in the early 1960s by her atmospheric, monochromatic canvases on which she would lay down simple graphite grids. For the next seven years, Martin steadily gained critical renown as her deeply meditative six-foot-square paintings extended the heroic pursuits of Abstract Expressionism in new direction. Then, in 1967, without warning, Martin left New York, abandoned painting, and settled into solitude in New Mexico. Ensconced on a remote mesa near Albuquerque, she would not paint again until 1974. During the years that followed, Martin developed her signature style of alternating horizontal bands of colour.
Inspired by the transcendent qualities of paintings by Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt, Martin considered herself to be an Abstract Expressionist. Nonetheless, her oeuvre played a critical role in heralding the advent of Minimalism, influencing, among others, Eva Hesse’s sculptural practice and Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings. Characterized by austere lines and grids superimposed upon muted grounds of color, Martin’s paintings elegantly negotiate the confines of structure and space, draftsmanship, and the metaphysical.
This exhibition celebrates the artist’s life and work and reflects upon her friendship with collector Daniel W. Dietrich II, whose recent bequest to the Museum includes four paintings that form the center piece of this presentation. In addition, it features drawings, a sculpture, and archival materials related to Martin’s 1973 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, which relaunched her career after a ten-year hiatus.