51
51
Agnes Martin
UNTITLED #7
Estimate
1,500,0002,000,000
LOT SOLD. 1,815,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
51
Agnes Martin
UNTITLED #7
Estimate
1,500,0002,000,000
LOT SOLD. 1,815,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Agnes Martin
1912 - 2004
UNTITLED #7
signed and dated 2002 on the reverse
acrylic and graphite on canvas
60 by 60 in. 152.4 by 152.4 cm.
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Provenance

PaceWildenstein, New York
Private Collection, New York
PaceWildenstein, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in February 2006

Exhibited

New York, PaceWildenstein, Agnes Martin: Recent Paintings, January - February 2003

Literature

Jacquelynn Baas, Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today, Berkeley, 2005, p. 212, illustrated in color and p. 213 (text)
Tiffany Bell, ed., Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings, New York, 2017 - ongoing, no. 2002.007, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Distinguished by its single graphite horizon, Untitled #7 represents the pinnacle of Agnes Martin’s long and distinguished career. Martin’s art reflects a prolonged and deeply considered investigation into the nature of abstraction and the role of the artist, masterfully articulating an intellectual balancing act between the subtle poetry of delicate mark-making and the muscular prose of modernist geometry. Here, Martin reduces her characteristic grid to its most ascetic extreme: a single, gossamer thin line traverses the purified ground of the canvas, as the tenets of composition and perspective are stripped down to their barest essentials; the stunning result being the achievement of unclouded aesthetic serenity. Executed in 2002, Untitled #7 is the consummate culmination of Martin’s prodigious output: a theoretical masterclass in the artist’s inimitable style.

Gently expanding from the solitary central line, Martin’s composition is symmetrically balanced, exposing her predisposition for geometrical order. Yet, it is the subtle irregularities within the details of this apparent uniformity that reveal the humanity of Martin’s own touch. When viewed from a distance, the faint horizontal line appears straight and ordinary, virtually disappearing into the hushed tonality of the expanse. Upon closer inspection, however, this thread is characterized by slight irregularities where Martin picked up her pencil, paused, and then resumed, or where the textured surface of the paint discreetly diverts the path of her hand. Without any other distractions, the eye follows the thin strand as it traverses the monochrome canvas from left to right. Demonstrating Martin’s mark-making genius, the line seems almost overwhelmed by the vastness of the surrounding blank space, yet also appears to float above the textured surface, vibrating with its own quiet energy.

This single line, dividing the canvas into upper and lower halves, is inevitably reminiscent of a vast horizon; the flaxen surface hue emphasizes this perception, creating an illusion of sand and sky reflecting and refracting one another like the infinite expanse of the New Mexican terrain that characterizes Martin’s beloved Taos. Her distinctive delicate tones were created through her own method of layering thick gesso with a diluted acrylic shade. The gesso ground crucially imbues the paint with a unique luminosity and spatial depth. By applying a thin acrylic to a chalky white primer, light is simultaneously absorbed and reflected; the painted surface appears at once opaque and translucent. Applied by hand using masking tape, small inconsistencies and hesitations of hand in the paint give the present work a unique vitality and strength. As such the limitless vistas of both sky and sand that surrounded Martin in New Mexico are transposed to canvas, with surface imperfections appearing like mirages emerging or disappearing in the desert sun.

Untitled #7 thus exemplifies the triumphal final chapter of Martin’s career. Ned Rifkin describes the sublime effect of her late paintings in the catalogue of the artist’s last major exhibition at the Menil Collection: “For more than five decades, Martin has created paintings that are evocations of light, each an individual issuance of ethereal rhythms. Simultaneously powerful and gentle, they are spartan works, beautiful without the slightest adornment. The paintings that Martin has offered us with unstinting consistency are pictures of anything. They are cadences of light, form, and color. You can ‘hear’ them with your eyes. They are silent sounds.” (Ned Rifkin, "Agnes Martin - The Music of the Spheres," in Exh. Cat., Houston, The Menil Collection, Agnes Martin: The Nineties and Beyond, 2002, p. 28) Untitled #7 thus evinces the artist’s formidable intelligence, keen focus, and masterful skill at evoking a profound contemplative quietude. Even as it paradoxically suggests a reduction to the barest artistic bones of graphite overlaid on pigment, the resulting masterpiece is breathtaking in its sophisticated brilliance.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York