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Old 07-16-2019, 06:26 AM
olive.oyl olive.oyl is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

I had to go look because I know Agnes Martin doesn’t do blank canvases, despite being a minimalist. That’s a bad copy. The real/better version of “Red Bird” has a square area inside the larger field with tiny red colored pencil lines, and there’s two vertical lines (of ink, or it’s the paper fold or something). To me, it looks as though the red square is sitting (or being held, or trapped) between the verticals. So...there IS an image there. Maybe you could say in her work, the background and foreground is the same thing.

At my last visit to Taos, I sat in a little round room with her work all over the walls and no, they don’t photograph very well. You have to stick your nose all up in her business to see the row and after row of teeny handmade lines or slight variations in tone. They are extremely quiet and “inward” paintings....maybe the total opposite end of the spectrum of somebody like Picasso. But maybe also, done by a crazy person.

They’re monk-like, but then again, she was monk-like, too.
Hers is contemplative, and honest, work.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:38 AM
Hairy wolf Hairy wolf is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

Hey Olive, maybe you’re right about that repro. I thank my good fortune for never having seen one of her beauties IRL. When you talk about her monk like solitude in New Mexico you are referring to the story behind the paintings. Her geometric things are silly and meaningless. Do you think that she used a metal ruler or a wooden one??
What’s the “importance” of her stuff in the overall history of art?
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:29 AM
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Re: Backgrounds

Modernism became increasingly reductive until it painted itself into a corner with Minimalism... and then Conceptual Art. You must admit, however, in purely decorative terms, her paintings would fit in any decor.
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Old 07-16-2019, 12:37 PM
Hairy wolf Hairy wolf is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

St. Luke, yup they will fit alright. However, I believe that with a few splashes from a house painter or a few grease marks from a plumber on them they would fit a lot better.
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Old 07-16-2019, 05:04 PM
Artyczar Artyczar is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

I for one love Agnes Martin. She's had a lot of influence on my work, especially her process. I have seen her work IRL and it does not photograph well, if at all. It just looks blank. I saw some of her most minimalist work IRL and was taken by how beautifully existential, ethereal, and delicate it was. I don't like to say feminine, but the paintings were that as well. I don't know how, but they had a point of view, if that's possible. Maybe some people are more sensitive than others, but I was moved.

After I saw this show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, I started to follow her work and watched several documentaries about her. That's when I really understood why I reacted to her work the way I did. There is a meditative calm about it. It's not just minimal for minimalist sake, it was an evolution over time, over a lifetime. And, by the way, it didn't look like she used a ruler either.

If you ever look at Deibenkorn's work in person, you will notice that he also gets extremely straight lines, but does not use a straight edge either. I do the same. It's painstaking, or could be considered so, but I find it very therapeutic to slowly get lines straight, and to sometimes leave them imperfect. I have a tremor, and I kind of like the look of my natural hand of the line.

And this is something Agnes Martin helped me to see. The line! Much in the same way Klee got me to see this in the beginning of my painting journey when I was a young painter. The line is everything. Klee was playful with it. Martin, meticulous. She slows it way down. I swear, if it wasn't for her, my practice would be completely different. I'd be frazzled and worried in my studio. I'd be unfocused. I may even be less disciplined. Her process got me to commit better to my own. She is an inspiration. I don't care what anyone says.

You can say there is a "story" behind her situation. That implies that maybe it is made up? I'm not sure what it insinuates, but sometimes these narratives come out in the work itself and I think that she somehow managed to do it in her work, and looking at how incredibly minimal it is, that's an amazing feat if you ask me. If it's just a story, and she's not as "zen" as she claimed to be, or at least wasn't trying to reach for that echelon of beingness, then she at least somehow communicated it in her work. Sometimes, the artist's persona can be part of the work in and of itself.

That makes me think of artists like Ray Johnson. His work was not just a bunch of visual collage. He was a walking, living, human performance and this informed his visual artwork. I have no problem with that. I know sometimes people say, "the art should stand on its own," but that is the art, and it stands as it stands. You couldn't say that about all the fluxus artists. What of the art stands on its own? It just "is."

And what of writing? Hunter Thompson's writing sort of came with his character, as does Kurt Vonnegut, and many other artists and musicians.

Okay, I digress....
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Old 07-16-2019, 05:22 PM
Artyczar Artyczar is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hairy wolf
What’s the “importance” of her stuff in the overall history of art?

I am paraphrasing here, but she has said a great deal of important things that have lingered on--resonated with many artists. Something about not paying attention to trends. Because if you try to get in with a trend, you'll go out with them too...something like that.

Also, she said something about leaving all those outside voices (the critics, the other artists, the parents' disappointments, and on and on), and leaving them on the other side of the threshold of your studio door. The studio is no place for them. It's a sacred place...

Those two things alone, I pretty much live by.

There are films of her working on her paintings, just as there are films of Pollock. I believe they are important to witness. How are they any less important than Pollock? You can say the same of him, flinging different color house paints (as it actually was house paint) off a stick. How is she any less important than Gerhard Richter taking a giant squeegee to expensive paints across huge canvases? Or Warhol filming his aimless posse lounging around his Factory? How is all that more important in art history? Don't get me wrong, as much as I say these things, I like some of these artists. Or maybe a couple of them. Maybe some of Warhol's stuff, and see how he impacted the art world, and he both made and maybe ruined Basquiat. Who knows?
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:17 PM
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Re: Backgrounds

I've seen several paintings by Martin IRL. None did the least for me... although I don't question that other's experiences might have been different. While Rothko and Ryman are not far from Minimalism I found something there... as far as they were from my own artistic endeavors. Both led me to an even greater appreciation of the physicality of the painting surface. Martin did nothing for me.

Personally, I see Martin as just one of the group of Minimalists of the time... which certainly was a trend. Was she as influential or "important" as Richter or Warhol's films? Maybe... but then I don't feel either Richter or Warhol's films have much historical merit. Time will tell. Pollack... that's a different question altogether. He really shook up the post-WWII art world, ending America's position as a provincial wanna-be (along with DeKooning, Rothko, Motherwell, and Guston).

But how important is the historical impact to the question of aesthetic merit? There have been members here who have repeatedly asked why this of that artist who they greatly admire (Andrew Wyeth immediately comes to mind) are ignored by the art historians. Of course, Art History is just a narrative and the narrative continues to change and evolve. If anyone had suggested that Duchamp be considered a peer of Picasso or Matisse in the 1930s or 40s they would have been laughed out of town. With Conceptual Art Duchamp became a "father figure" enshrined. Will his status last? I personally can't imagine the urinal (which was not even his creation, by the way. Read up on the Baroness Elsa von Freytag- Loringhoven) having much value 100 years from now.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:43 PM
Artyczar Artyczar is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

Well the Fountain has already stood the 100-year test thus far. Pretty crazy.
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Old 07-16-2019, 07:09 PM
olive.oyl olive.oyl is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

I don’t like minimalism, generally speaking, but Martin has been the only one I’ve ever gravitated toward. I don’t think she used a ruler, but I’m not 100% sure. It all looks hand-drawn...straight, slow, careful, exacting marks, carried from one side to another. Very subtle washes of color you can barely see. I wonder why somebody would want to do THAT...because it doesn’t seem like a fun kind of painting/drawing style to ME. And because she stops me long enough to wonder about anything, that’s good enough for me to consider the “whole art package”....artist + creation.

I like that she was a woman among the “big boys”...all those heavy-duty, manly brutish sculptors with the oh-so-very “important” work (Carl Andre, Flavin, Judd, Richard Serra and whoever). So yeah, in comparison, delicate pencil lines might seem “silly and meaningless” to...some. Plus she had mental health issues, and was a closeted lesbian, and a loner, and living away from the trendy art scene, and way out by herself in the boonies. So in some sense, her whole being was “reductive” and that’s what I meant by honest. How could somebody like this create work that looked any other way?

And, as to whether or not her work has “importance” in the art history timeline...who cares. Just personal opinions, subject to change. Despite all the things she had going against her, she’s still managed to achieve her place, her legacy, by creating a substantial body of work, with an influence over other artists (like our Arty), and being shown-collected-reviewed...just like any other “properly successful” artist.

So there.

Leave old Aggie alone...
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:16 PM
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Re: Backgrounds

Martin's biography has nothing to do with her merits as an artist... and certainly don't influence me in the least. Why should it? The work comes first. If an artist engages me, then I may be interested in learning more about them... but reading up on the biography of an artist that doesn't engage me certainly isn't going to change my opinion of their work.

Having said this, let's not Romanticize Martin as this outsider struggling against all those "big boys" (because we know, Olive, everything comes down to the issue of gender ). Martin was certainly no outsider. She earned an undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico, where she also taught for some time before moving to New York City and getting her Masters degree at Columbia (that's a real outsider there). She lived in lower Manhattan in a neighborhood shared with Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Indiana. She was close with Ad Reinhardt and Barnett Newman, who championed her work.

She showed with Betty Parsons (who may have also been her lover). Parsons also exhibited Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb, Alfonso Ossorio, Theodoros Stamos, Joseph Cornell, William Congdon, Clyfford Still, Ellsworth Kelly, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. Martin's grids were celebrated as examples of Minimalist art and were hung among works by artists including Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman, and Donald Judd. Since her first solo exhibition in 1958, Martin's work had been the subject of more than 85 solo shows and two retrospectives including the survey, Agnes Martin, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Agnes Martin: Paintings and Drawings 1974–1990 organized by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

This certainly isn't my idea of an artist living and working outside of the "trendy art scene" and still overcoming tremendous challenges.

Martin only moved away from New York after 10 years returning to New Mexico.

Honestly, I am impressed by her ability to draw lines as straight as she did without a ruler... but little else.
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Old 07-17-2019, 03:16 AM
Artyczar Artyczar is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

It's interesting to use Martin's credentials both for and against her when it's convenient. First, she has no real importance in art history. Then, she was hung among other "great" or famous ab-exes and minimalists, yet weren't they really hung among her? If you think about the context, yes, she was close with Reinhardt, and who gives a heck, or if Parson's was her lover (we can select any number of boys doing favors for boys in any walk of life--that's just life)? Is that insinuating that she wouldn't have been who she was without Reinhardt or Parsons? What's the point in mentioning that? But my point of context is that it was 1958 and who was Sol LeWitt in 1958? I'm not sure if Robert Ryman was having solo shows in 1958 yet. And speaking of Ryman, wasn't he married to Lucy Lippard? I mean, so what? All these people knew each other and were friends, lovers, colleagues, etc. It doesn't matter. Martin wasn't an outsider, she studied and did her time just like any of them and she earned her spot, just like the rest and was there in the beginning, among the beginning, yet not always mentioned as one of the famous or founding minimalists of the late 50s and early 60s. Maybe these days it's not always about gender, but you can't deny it was a challenge then, and it still is sometimes now. There's still what I see as a kind of Rosalind Franklin syndrome that goes on whether some guys want to see that or not, or whether you like Agnes Martin or not. Artistic taste is not even the point here.

Anyway.

Back to "backgrounds" I guess. Both literally and metaphorically now?

Or not.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:18 AM
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter Re: Backgrounds

Martin wasn't an outsider, she studied and did her time just like any of them and she earned her spot, just like the rest and was there in the beginning, among the beginning, yet not always mentioned as one of the famous or founding minimalists of the late 50s and early 60s.

I can't say how famous Martin was in the late 50's and 60s. I seem to remember her being mentioned as much as Judd and the other Minimalists... but then I wasn't paying close attention to any of them outside of the later painter, Sean Scully, who wasn't really a Minimalist, but rather straddled Minimalism/Geometric Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism.

I agree that there were many female artists... a majority certainly... who struggled against gender-based biases... and continue to do so today, albeit to a lesser extent. Two female artists I feel were highly underrated were Berthe Morisot and Lee Bontecou. Bontecou's work was as strong as (or stronger) than the male artists she showed with... including Rauschenberg and Johns. She, unfortunately, "sabotaged" her own career by virtually retiring from publically exhibiting her work from the 1970s until recently. Morisot remains rather unknown... certainly in comparison to Cassatt, who had the advantage of wealth, connections, and American citizenship to promote her reputation.

But yes... let's return to backgrounds.

What do we make of a figure like Romare Bearden where the foreground and background often merge into one... an all-over pattern?







I'm reminded of some works by Matisse...







Here the figure and ground... foreground and background... seem equally assertive. This would seem to fit Matisse's statement suggesting that it is the whole painting that matters... that the "background" isn't an afterthought or a minor character in the painting.

Or what of Vuillard?







... or even Bonnard?





The figure and ground seem to merge to an extent suggestive of the all-over design of tapestries... or mosaics.
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Last edited by stlukesguild : 07-17-2019 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:04 PM
Hairy wolf Hairy wolf is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

Carol, firstly you are pointing out things Agnes SAID! She should have written books. We try as best we can to express ourselves by visual means. Not by words. As for the artists you mentioned, I don’t know what to say. One thing I can say though: I went to see an exhibition of Warhol ORIGINAL paintings and drawings at a London gallery a few years ago. The primary reason for going there was to see if he could do anything by hand, not using his known silk screen technique. I was very impressed!
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:19 PM
Hairy wolf Hairy wolf is offline
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Re: Backgrounds

Fellas, this started as a “background” thread!...😀🤓
If the subject is now women in post World War Two modern art, I’d like to move on and say this: I’m not impressed by Helen Frankenthaler’s work, but I love Joan Mitchell’s!
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:35 PM
Hairy wolf Hairy wolf is offline
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Re: Backgrounds



Speaking of “reduction”, this is reduced too.
But what we have here is a powerful statement, in my opinion.
Franz Kline.
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