Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Agnes Martin

May 11, 2015


The May 17 Modern Art & Design Auction is almost here. Los Angeles Modern Auctions is pleased to offer a watercolor, graphite, and ink work on paper from 1977 by Agnes Martin: director Peter Loughrey’s auction pick of the day. This lot retains Pace Gallery and Margo Leavin Gallery labels and will be offered at auction for the first time.

Lot 197, Agnes Martin, Untitled, 1977

Lot 197, Agnes Martin, Untitled, 1977
May 17 Modern Art & Design Auction

Martin is known for her square-format works with all-over grid patterns, rendered in paint and graphite; bridging Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. She took a break from painting and moved to New Mexico just as she was gaining critical acclaim in New York in the mid-1960s. When she returned to painting later, she refined her practice. Still subtle and meditative, her late 1970s paintings feature wide horizontal watercolor washes of pale blue, yellow, and light red, delicately defined by penciled lines. Their variations in color, opacity, and transparency evoke optical and textural allusions. They seemingly refer to the Southwestern landscape: like luminous, dissolving stretches of the desert horizon. The artist said these works “are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down forms.”

From Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art:

 Agnes Martin is a pivotal figure in the development of modern art in America. This is a stellar example of her work with a superb provenance and is in extremely good condition.

Martin said the essence of her work is found ‘between the lines.’ Her minimalist geometry–the delicate graphite squares, grids, and points she drew—like the the lines here, heighten the effect of her color sensibility.

There is tension among the gradient bands of colors, the square border, and the little penciled points marking the boundaries within. The graphite almost seems to ground the colors, so they don’t ‘float’ away.

She wanted to take everything out of a painting that she could, to distill a work down to a simple rhythm, a kind of mantra. That’s why Agnes Martin’s work rewards contemplation. The longer and more deeply you engage with this piece, the more it reveals.

In June 2015, Tate Modern, London will present the first retrospective of Agnes Martin since her death in 2004. Agnes Martin, 3 June – 11 October 2015, is organized by Tate Modern in collaboration with other museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Guggenheim, New York. This exhibition will cover the range of Martin’s seminal works, early pieces, and the grid and striped canvases that became her hallmark.

Lot Information:

Lot 197
Agnes Martin
Watercolor, graphite, and ink on paper
Signed and dated in graphite “a martin ’77” lower right sheet; inscribed “Top Top” upper center sheet; retains The Pace Gallery, Margo Leavin Gallery, and Charlotte Jackson Fine Art labels verso
Sheet: 12″ x 12″; Frame: 15.375″ x 15.25″

This work will be included in an upcoming catalogue raisonné to be published digitally by Artifex Press.

Provenance: The Pace Gallery, New York, New York (acquired directly from the artist, March 1978);
Irving Galleries of Fine Art, Palm Beach, Florida (acquired directly from the above, November 1983);
Private Collection, United States

Exhibited: “Agnes Martin: Recent Watercolors,” Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, April 7-May 5, 1979; “Drawings, Watercolors and Prints by Contemporary Masters,” group exhibition, Root Art Center, Hamilton College, Clinton, April 15-May 23, 1982

Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000


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