Saturday, November 19, 2011
Agnes Martin and Jacques-Louis David
I've been slightly obsessed with paring down my text drawings; eliminating the baroque elements and going for an austere presentation of the text. I'm also interested in working much larger, which makes my new minimal approach rather convenient, since it would take roughly two millennia to finish a piece with my current style of working.
A great influence for this new approach is the work of Agnes Martin. I saw a show of her work at Pace Gallery a few months ago, and was taken by her paintings. I didn't internally combust or anything like that; I simply appreciated the spirit of her work, her expression of perfection. Clearly she found "It" in the simplicity of line and grid, in the same way that a mathematician finds "It" in numbers. She made no claims to perfection, which was wise. She considered herself a classicist, and I think that too was wise. She reproached those who called her a minimalist. Her work is classical in the traditional sense, in that it represents an ideal. It goes against nature, in the same way that the paintings of Jacques-Louis David go against nature (see above). Agnes Martin and David have that in common–they idealize nature and present it as improbably perfected. Completely unattainable, but for the odd moment on the canvas. I love this about them. They knew that perfection was inexpressible, but they gave it a shot anyway.
That said, I must qualify by adding that I'm only a Martinophile from afar. Like, from 10 feet away. From that distance, her paintings are sublime. From 5 feet, they rock. From 3 feet, they start to diminish in interest, and from 12 inches, they completely fall apart for me. The quality of her line doesn't evoke the sublime. It's just a dumb old line. If Ingres had drawn her lines, then maybe there'd be something for the janitor to clean up. But her lines? Nope. They don't do anything for me.
Ah, but what if those lines were made up of teeny tiny text?