Agnes Martin. Friendship. 1963

Agnes Martin Friendship 1963

  • Not on view

A grid connotes regulation and regularity, and therefore the human hand: natural forms as uniform as these patterns of evenly spaced horizontal and vertical straight lines are seldom visible to the unaided eye. In Friendship and other works, however, Martin draws a grid that somehow both softens the firm lines of geometry and seems to open onto a space far wider than the human sphere. Her art, she has said, "is about what is known forever in the mind"—perfection, the transcendent reality spoken of in Eastern religions. For her, the grid evokes not a human measure but a supernal one, a boundless order.

Like many Abstract Expressionist artists (her chronological contemporaries), Martin honors the spiritual potential of art, but none of those painters approached the spiritual through symmetry. The organization of Friendship shares more with the Minimal art of a later generation, but the lines Martin has hand-scored into that shimmering plane of gold have a unique delicacy. From a distance, too, they fade, structuring the field almost subliminally. The result is a sense of an infinite space with a mysterious vitality. Indeed the experience Martin says she wants from a painting is "the simple, direct going into a field of vision as you would cross an empty beach to look at the ocean."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art , MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 268
Gold leaf and oil on canvas
6' 3" x 6' 3" (190.5 x 190.5 cm)
Gift of Celeste and Armand P. Bartos
Object number
© 2018 Estate of Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture