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Friday, December 17, 2004

Agnes Martin, 92

Holland Cotter writes the obituary in today's NY Times. Tyler Green has a very nice tribute on MAN.

For me, the perfect Martin painting will always be Milk River, painted in 1963 and owned by the Whitney. When the work was last on display a few years ago as part of a permanent collection installation that I was lecturing on, I didn't talk about it with my groups. Frank Stella's Die Fahne Hoch was a much easier piece to use to open up the key concepts of minimalism. But after finishing my talks I would frequently retrace my steps through the galleries to spend time communing with Milk River by myself.

Some paintings make for great public lecture material. Others are best used for quiet, personal contemplation. Martin's work from the 1960s never fails to bring me to a place that even other great artists who strove to give the viewer a transcendent moment (artists like Rothko, for example) can't reach. And as much as I would like to think that I can help people see depth and meaning in art that they at first perceive to be inaccessible, I don't think I would be able to communicate that experience effectively to a large group of museum visitors. Sometimes things are just better seen and felt rather than analyzed and described.

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