Untitled #1 2003
Agnes Martin, Untitled #1, 2003
Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4 cm
© Agnes Martin / SOCAN (2019)
During the last few years of her life, Martin’s work took a dramatic shift as she began to move away from the horizontal format that had characterized her painting since the 1970s. In 2001, canvases with vertical stripes, such as Little Children Playing with Love, returned. Yet Untitled #1 from 2003 broke through both the vertical and horizontal grids that had defined the artist’s practice since 1960, establishing a final trajectory that was as surprising as it was logical.
This striking painting features an uneven acrylic background and brush strokes are visible across the whole picture plane. At the centre of the composition are two black triangles, peaked in yellow. Two graphite lines cross behind the triangles horizontally. In the career of any other artist, these subtle changes would hardly seem monumental. However, for Martin, who had steadfastly committed to her format of horizontal lines on square canvases for more than twenty years, these changes signalled a new chapter at the end of her life.
The painting was included in Martin’s last exhibition at the former PaceWildenstein Gallery in 2004, where it hung alongside the canvas Homage to Life, 2003. Untitled #1 and Homage to Life harken back to the formal experiments of the late 1950s and early 1960s that prefigured Martin’s grids, such as Untitled, c.1957, and Words, 1960, two works that also include the triangle motif. They are late-career masterpieces that show that the artist never stopped experimenting within the parameters that she had set for herself. They were included in the 2005 Venice Biennale, six months after Martin’s death.