Home > Article > Nothing Always Happens > Cud Quote #4 – Agnes Martin

I watched one of those Art City videos this weekend, the one titled "Simplicity" (2002). There are great interviews with Richard Tuttle, John Baldessari, Robert Williams, and others. Dave Hickey, commenting on the broad historical parameters of the art world, is his usual hilarious, skewering, irreverent self. Amy Adler’s inclusion was a little inexplicable to me, but I liked watching her tear up her drawings after the pictures had been taken. Coagula founder Mat Gleason talks about getting beat up at openings, and he’s kind of such an obnoxious twerp (though entertaining, and I thought sorta lovable) you can pretty easily see why.


(Agnes Martin photographed by Chuck Close) 

I was particulary riveted by shots with the late, great Agnes Martin. I’ve long been a devotee of her writings and work, but never seen such lengthy footage of her before. She’s interviewed partly at the famed Taos restaurant Doc Martin’s (which I have a special fondness for from having been many times since childhood,) and at her adobe studio. Between shots of her in Taos and Tuttle in his home in Abiquiu, with the light, the colors, the scenery, I was left reeling a bit with home-sickness. The hope is to head back there after Chicago. Maybe as some kind of visualization excercise, Raychael and I often eye up broke-down, Northern New Mexican adobes for sale on-line to fix up.

I transcribed some of Martin’s comments. She’s one of the rare beings one will ever encounter who lived wholely within a full-spectrum model of conciousness: inclusive, focused, embracing the earthly, while embedding it in a functioning awareness of what’s beyond it. There is a quality of mind, a state of being, that is free from the turmoil of incarnate existence. It can’t be depicted. But it can be experienced, and as Martin’s work demonstrates when seen properly, even transmitted. 


“When I decided to paint, I knew I didn’t want to paint
about this world, & nature. I wanted to paint abstract. The most obvious
abstract emotion is happiness. So I paint a lot of paintings about happiness. I
paint about happiness, innocence, & beauty: the feelings that we have that
go beyond the world, that have no worldly cause.


“All my work is above the line. I don’t paint anything
depressing (laughs.) To live above the line, you have to think ‘I want to be
good. I want to be good every minute.’ And you only pay attention to things
that you like, you know. When you go to the museum, you just look at the
paintings you like. You don’t look at the ones you don’t like, stop &
criticize, and all that.


“People think that they have to understand art, but that’s
not right. Understanding is, you know, the bind. Contradiction &
correction, that’s all…oh boy…”


“I think everybody is born to do a certain thing. And they
ought to study themselves, find out what they like and what they don’t like and
everything, and try to find out exactly what they’re supposed to do.
Everybody’s rushing so much in this life they don’t take time to really look
and find out what their response is, even to their own work.


“Well, sometimes I paint about tranquility. I have a lot of
paintings about tranquility. It doesn’t matter where you are – if you bring
your mind to a stop you’ll feel a light, delicate happiness. That’s
tranquility. You’ve stopped.


“You don’t have to listen to anybody about anything.
Whatever you want, you get.”



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