Collection 1940s–1970s

Agnes Martin. The Tree. 1964 443

Oil and pencil on canvas, 6 x 6' (182.8 x 182.8 cm). Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund. © 2023 Estate of Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artist, Agnes Martin: It took me 20 years to paint completely not objective, not about this world. Every day, I would say, what am I going to do next? That's how I ask for an inspiration.

Curator, Leah Dickerman: Agnes Martin is the key figure in re-thinking abstraction in the late 1950s and early 60s. Her work is very much about practice. She chooses six-foot canvasses and adds two layers of gesso, which is thin enough to let the weave of the canvas show through and then she begins penciling a fine, linear grid almost to the edges of the canvas. So, in these works there's a tension between the regularity of the grid and the handmade quality of the lines. She is drawing attention to the variability that's inherent in human production.

Agnes Martin: The inspiration comes to you, tells you exactly what to do--even when you're painting--it tells you every brushstroke.