Untitled

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  • Provenance

    The Artist
    David and Renze Nesbit, New Mexico
    Renze Nesbit, New Mexico
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Tiffany Bell, ed., Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings, New York, 2017 - ongoing, no. 1996.023, online (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    >“When I think of art I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is just not in the eye. It is in the mind. It is our positive response to life.” - Agnes Martin

    Painted over a quarter century after Agnes Martin’s move to Taos, New Mexico, Untitled, circa 1995, is a classic example of the artist's iconic square-format, serene, near- monochromatic grid paintings. The delicate graphite tracks of Martin’s pencil sketch horizontal bars across the canvas, while fine, translucent layers of acrylic are built up on a chalky gesso ground to create a luminescent ivory surface. The result is a painting both tranquil and utterly engrossing – like the hypnotic hum of a monastic chant, Untitled encapsulates infinity in a single cadence.

    Precise, penciled lines divide the 12-by-12-inch canvas into a geometric tripartite composition, embodying Martin’s mathematical approach to content, a style she had perfected in the late 1960s. As a young painter living in New York, Martin suffered from deteriorating mental stability and was eventually committed to Bellevue Asylum in 1968. Upon her release, she decided to move to Taos, New Mexico in search of a soothing, transcendent art. Like Yayoi Kusama, known for her obsessive repetition of geometric motifs, Martin’s endless repetition of pale, structured canvases can be interpreted as a search for tranquility and control over her inflamed mind. In the clean, quiet light of New Mexico, Martin turned to Eastern philosophy and let go of all intellectual positions in favor of an awareness of the beauty she called "the inner mind", perfectly embodied in the completely abstract, mantra-like Untitled.

    The horizontal bands, painted rosy white, add a liquid depth to the shimmering eggshell surface, which evokes the calm horizons of her surroundings in New Mexico. Yet while many have read Martin’s paintings as landscapes in the colors of the deserts, for Martin herself they were exclusively reflective of emotional states. “If you were at the beach and keenly aware of the shining waves, the fragrant air, the freedom of mind, feeling happy and free – that is reality. That is life,” Martin described in a 1979 lecture at the University of Santa Fe (Agnes Martin, quoted in “The Current of the River of Life Moves Us", in Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances, London, 2012, p. 166).

  • Artist Bio

    Agnes Martin

    American • 1912 - 2004

    As an artist defined by minimalism and abstract expressionism, Agnes Martin found serenity in her work. Commonly believed to have schizophrenia, Martin may have exercised her orderly grids and pastel colors as a way to find peace. After moving from Canada to New York City and earning her M.A. at Columbia University, she was supported by other talented artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Indiana. Martin began her career with exhibitions at Betty Parson's Gallery, and her work quickly traveled internationally from there. Eventually moving to New Mexico, the artist ended her career and cut off all social ties. Martin was represented by Pace Gallery from 1975 and was recently given a retrospective at Tate Modern in 2015.

    View More Works

143

Untitled

acrylic and graphite on canvas
12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 cm.)
Executed circa 1995.

Estimate
$350,000 - 450,000 

sold for $375,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
jmccord@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue