A grid is hand-drawn in pencil on a square, ochre-coloured canvas. Most of the grid, which mirrors the proportions of the canvas, is filled in with white dots.

Agnes Martin

(Macklin, Saskatchewan, 1912 – Taos, New Mexico, 2004)


The Islands


Oil and graphite on canvas

182.88 x 182.88 cm 

Courtesy of the Pace Gallery

© Estate of Agnes Martin / SODRAC (2018)

Photo: Pace Gallery   

The Islands plays on the regularity of its square shape. It is based on a hand-drawn pencil grid that mirrors the proportions of the canvas. The central area of the grid, where dots of white paint fill some of the interstices, also reflects the painting’s shape. The Islands is part of Martin’s decades-long exploration of the grid in endless variations. It illustrates the restraint that characterized her work like a signature until 1995: uniform format (182.88 x 182.88 cm), thin layers of colour and straight pencilled lines conducive to contemplative meditation.

The abstract painter Agnes Martin was known for methodically executed work that spanned more than forty years. Her compositions organized around grids and stripes earned critical acclaim in the 1960s. Their distinctive style lay at the junction of then emerging Minimalism and Conceptualism and well-established Abstract Expressionism. Born on the Prairies, Martin spent ten years in New York before settling permanently in New Mexico in 1968. The influence of the desert expanses can be felt in her work, and her approach often reflects her interest in Eastern spiritual practices.

Private collection