Agnes Martin's Gabriel

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 8:30 pm

Programmed by Amy Kazymerchyk

Recently preserved by the Museum of Modern Art and The Pace Gallery in New York, Gabriel is the only completed film by the painter Agnes Martin (1912-2004), a leading figure in American abstract art. (Martin was born in Saskatchewan and raised in Vancouver). “Gabriel [is] a historically unique work that both illuminates and complicates our understanding of the artist and her paintings. ‘My movie is about happiness, innocence, and beauty,’ Martin observed. ‘It’s about this little boy who climbs a mountain and all the beautiful things he sees.’ To those familiar with the luminous, tactile, exacting geometries of her paintings, Gabriel’s elusive style and structure may come as a surprise: the lack of logical continuity; the point of view that shifts between that of the boy and an unseen observer; the handheld camera that is rarely at rest, but instead feels its way across the landscape, meandering and contemplating. Whatever tension exists in Gabriel comes from transition, variation, and difference: between shore and land, snow and desert, silence and Bach, solidity and movement, abstraction and nature” (MOMA). 78 mins, 1976, Colour, 16mm transferred to DVD, USA.  Courtesy of The Pace Gallery.

“Agnes Martin was born in Macklin, Saskatchewan in 1912 and grew up in Vancouver. She moved to the USA in 1932, taking American citizenship in 1940. Martin held her first one-woman exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York in 1958. She constructed her paintings on a rational grid system, superimposing a network of pencilled lines and later coloured bands on fine-grained canvas stained with washes of colour. These paintings were influential on the development of Minimalism in the USA, although Martin regarded her use of grids as a development from the ‘all-over’ compositional methods of Abstract Expressionism. She persistently rejected the suggestion that her paintings were conceived in response to the landscape of New Mexico, where she settled again in 1967 and where she chose to work most of her life” (Oxford University Press).