Agnes Martin (1912-2004)

Biography

Like many of the Taos Modernists, Agnes Martin came to Taos by way of New York City. Martin was born in Macklin, Canada in 1912 and immigrated to the United States in 1932, where she attended the Teacher’s College of Columbia University in New York. After receiving her degree in 1941 and completing a year of art teaching, Martin decided to become an artist herself and devoted herself to painting.

Martin settled in Taos in the early 1950’s, and in 1957 the visiting gallerist Betty Parsons discovered her paintings of biomorphic, abstract forms. Parsons offered to represent her on the condition that she move to New York. In 1957, Martin settled in Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan, a neighborhood that was home to artists such as Lenore Tawney, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

Over the next decade, Martin’s organic abstractions would be pared down to the spare grid paintings for which she would be best known. Shortly after she was included in the 1966 exhibition Systemic Painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Martin lost her studio in Coenties Slip and left New York, seemingly at the height of her career.

Martin began painting again in 1972. She settled in Cuba, New Mexico, eventually moving again to Taos. She remained in Taos for the rest of her life, painting and living an ascetic lifestyle. The one luxury she allowed herself was a white Mercedes sedan, which she drove from her retirement community to her studio each day. When Martin passed away in 2004, her ashes were buried at the foot of her favorite tree at the Harwood Museum of Art.

Selected Awards

Lifetime Achievement Award, College Art Association 2005
Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1992
Santa Fe Governor's Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts 1998
National Medal of Arts, National Endowment for the Arts 1998
Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, College Art Association 1998
Golden Lion for Contribution to Contemporary Art 1997
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters 1989

Agnes_Martin_1954

Schools of Study

Teachers College, Columbia University N.Y. 1942
Summer Field School of the University of New Mexico, Taos, N.M. 1947
Columbia University, N.Y. 1952

Selected Exhibitions

LA Biennale di Venezia 1976, 1980, 1997

The Whitney Biennial 1977, 1995

Documenta 1972

Agnes Martin: Paintings and Drawings 1974–1990, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1991

Agnes Martin, Whitney Museum, New York 1992

Agnes Martin Works on Paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, N.M. 1998

Agnes Martin: Paintings from 2001, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, N.M. 2001

Agnes Martin: The Nineties and Beyond, Menil Collection, Houston 2002

Agnes Martin, Tate Modern, London 2015

Agnes Martin, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, N.Y. 2016

Agnes Martin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.A. 2016