Agnes Martin (Canadian/American, 1912-2004)
Blue Flower, 1962
Titled, signed, and dated "Blue Flower/a. martin/62" on the reverse, identified on
labels from Robert Elkon Gallery, New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and on an unattributed museum label affixed to the reverse.
Oil, glue, nails, and canvas collage on canvas stretched over panel, panel size 11 5/8 x 11 3/8 in., in an integral frame.
Condition: Toning to canvas, minor oxidation to nail heads, minor surface accretions, small split to panel on the reverse.
Provenance: A private New Hampshire and Vermont collection.
Exhibitions: Agnes Martin, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, January 22-March 1, 1973 and Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, Pasadena, California, April 3-May 27, 1973.
Agnes Martin: Paintings and Drawings 1957-1975, Organized by Arts Council of Great Britain, London, Hayward Gallery, London, March 2, 1977-April 24, 1977 and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, May 13-June 19, 1977.
N.B. Although Martin studied at Columbia in the 1940s and 1950s, she spent most of her formative artistic years in New Mexico. She was a part of the Abstract Expressionist movement, although her works were more contemplative than many of her colleagues. Her approach had more affinity with Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly than with the gestural painters.
In 1957 Betty Parsons asked Martin to come to New York, wishing to feature Martin at her gallery. Martin had her first show at Parsons in 1958. It was shortly after this that she began to develop the square, grid-like compositions of her mature style. Unlike her Minimalist contemporaries, her grids were far from rigid, and were created through horizontal and vertical elements that intersect to create a grid-like structure. These elements were generally surrounded by a border, giving her compositions a finite quality. In spite of their geometry, Martin generally connected her compositions back to the natural world through her titles. All of these quintessential elements are present in Blue Flower of 1962.
Here the horizontals and verticals are created by quarter-inch squares of canvas stained a pale cornflower blue and affixed to the surface with small nails. The squares are imperfect and appear to have been cut by hand. Nor are they perfectly aligned on the surface, thus they read like mat tesserae of an early Byzantine mosaic. The rows and columns of nails form lines as well, and like the squares the nails are not exactly aligned. Each square is given equal visual weight creating a composition that is read as a whole rather than as the sum of multiple parts.
Blue Flower will be included in the forecoming Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné, Tiffany Bell, editor.
The canvas appears to be unvarnished and has toned to a soft ochre color. The surface soiling/accretions are minor and are visible almost exclusively in the border areas. The panel to which the canvas is affixed is gently curved. The crack to the panel is a vertical split in the upper middle of the panel. It does not appear to go all the way through, nor does it run the full length of the panel.
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