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The Feminine Abstract Art of Agnes Martin

  • Journal of History of Modern Art
  • 2001, (13), pp.35-60
  • Publisher : 현대미술사학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Art > Arts in general > Art History
  • Received : November 30, 2001
  • Accepted : December 31, 2001
  • Published : December 31, 2001

Kwon Young-jin 1

1이화여자대학교

ABSTRACT

It is a feminist approach to the painting of Agnes Martin. Since the late 1950s, Martin has been consistently making the reductive monochromatic paintings. Ac­ cording to the formalist appearance, Martin's work has been classified into Minimalist art. Many critics, however, appraised Martin as one of the most impor­tant abstract artists in the century by the fact of emotional touches in her restrained and sparse painting. There have not been serious researches regarding the special­ ties of Martin's painting beyond those formalist analyses. Thus, this thesis is to investigate the inner differences of Martin's painting. Martin's painting could be summarized as monochromatic canvas of delicate pencil lined grid. In the history of Western art, grid is a symbol of human reason and rationality. However, Martin wants to present intuitive emotion and inspira­tion with her grids. Martin realizes emotional expressions by the rational icon of grid, optical visions by haptic materiality, affirmative creativeness by blank canvas, and exalted artistic experiences by hard manual works. In her painting, we could find two opposite elements of Hegelian dichotomy co-exist and reinforce each other. Abstract art could be one of the most important events in the art history of 20th century. It has historical significance of the most advanced form of art. The ab­stract art, however, has been based upon hierarchical order between the advanced and primitive. The hierarchy could easily repeats itself as the pair of reason-emotion, culture-nature, male-female, and abstract-representation. Masculinity of modern­ ism achieved its superiority in comparison with feminine inferiority. In other words, abstract art has honestly reflected its patriarchical culture of our society. In the art history of 20th century, it is hard to find any artist who might use grid m order to express delicate emotions and calm reliefs. Martin's way demonstrates that many elements excluded in the Modernist art could be successfully recovered in her art. We could understand the real power of Martin's art, just once do not decide whether it is Modernist or Feminist. Through Martin's painting, we could witness wide over1laps between Modernist and Feminist art. This thesis has two aims; re-reading the history of abstract art and re-appraising Martin's painting. The critical reading could open rich and diverse possibilities of Modernist and Minimalist art. It also gives new understanding of Martin's painting, which has been easily misread by established views of Modernist art history. Ultimately, the reconciliation between separate dichotomy in Modernist art history could be a starting point to reconstruct another art history. This thesis could be the very beginning of a new history of femine abstract art, an alternative to replace the history of Modernist art, which has been saturated with restricted and mascu­line view.

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