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Posts Tagged ‘Agnes Martin’

Loved the Ocean, Lived in the Desert, and Other News

August 25, 2015 | by

Agnes Martin, Untitled #1 (detail), 2003, acrylic and graphite on canvas.

  • The poet Cynthia Macdonald has died at eighty-seven. Hayden Carruth praised her “light sardonic touch”; her poems sometimes drew on her career as a psychoanalyst, in which her specialty was, appropriately enough, writer’s block. “All people who really want to write and can’t, or who really need to write and can’t, have real conflict and real oppositions,” she said in 1998. “One part of them is saying you have to do this, you want to do this, and the other part is saying you’re not allowed to.”
  • Dismaland, Bansky’s sprawling, much-touted parody of Disney theme parks, is supposed to indict consumer capitalism by immersing us in a grim portrait of social collapse—but its real appeal is as banal as anything with the Disney insignia on it: “it remains a fun ‘family day out. For all his protests, Banksy is a showbizman. The night this correspondent visited, the organizers were laughingly dispensing unlimited quantities of prosecco, strangely unaware of their resemblance to the portrait above them of Prime Minister David Cameron, sipping white wine insouciantly while the curtain is drawn on old Blighty. Fireworks lit up the dark. Hollywood stars joined in the frivolity. Dandily dressed salespeople circulated with price-lists of objets-d’art, and Banksy has auctioned his work elsewhere for hundreds of thousands of pounds. In 21st century Britain, even anarchists have joined the champagne society.”
  • Richard Diebenkorn—who died in 1993, and whose art was featured all the way back in our Fall 1984 issue—kept sketchbooks throughout his life, often putting one down only to pick it up years later: “The books are filled with stunningly gestural sketches of bits and pieces of daily life, both mundane capturing of everyday things, and powerful vignettes of intimate family moments … We see brief visual meditations on vistas seen on travels, and we see carefully built studies that would become the large-scale finished Ocean Park paintings we know so well.”
  • A new biography of Agnes Martin brings her many contradictions into sharp relief: “the Martin who insisted that nothing was more important to her than the ocean yet lived most of her life in the desert; Martin the ascetic guru, subsisting through the winter on hard cheese and walnuts and homegrown, preserved tomatoes, yet also the margarita- and steak-loving life of the party … Martin the disciplined practitioner who woke up early every morning to paint, and who admitted, ‘I don’t get up in the morning until I know exactly what I’m going to do. Sometimes, I stay in bed until about three [in] the afternoon, without any breakfast.’ ” (She was also, in her life as a motorist, an inveterate speeder.)
  • Henri Cole elaborates on his equivalent of Proust’s madeleine: “You take a piece of Wonder Bread and spread butter over it and sprinkle Domino sugar on top. It’s love-food. It’s dessert for people who don’t have a dessert, like in the Depression era. By eating it as an adult, I am recreating childhood and the purest pleasure of love-food.”

“An Egoless Practice”: Tantric Art

April 3, 2012 | by

Bikaner, 2002, 14

It could be a cult classic: the debut edition of Siglio Press’s Tantra Song—one of the only books to survey the elusive tradition of abstract Tantric painting from Rajasthan, India—sold out in a swift six weeks. Rendered by hand on found pieces of paper and used primarily for meditation, the works depict deities as geometric, vividly hued shapes and mark a clear departure from Tantric art’s better-known figurative styles. They also resonate uncannily with lineages of twentieth-century art—from the Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism to Minimalism—as well as with much painting today. Rarely have the ancient and the modern come together so fluidly.

For nearly three decades, the renowned French poet Franck André Jamme has collected these visual communiqués, and it hasn’t been easy: in 1985 he survived a fatal bus accident while traveling to visit Hindu tantrikas in Jaipur. In Tantra Song, Jamme assembles some of the most pulsating works he’s acquired, while unpacking his experiential knowledge of Tantra’s cosmology.

Western views of Tantra tend toward hyperbole. (The New York Times recently published an article, “Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here,” noting, “Early in the twentieth century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain.”) Jamme’s book serves as a corrective to this slant and sheds significant light on the deep historical roots—and fruits—of the practice. Siglio will release a second edition of the book on April 19. Jamme and I recently discussed these anonymously made paintings, the altered states they induce, and their timeless aesthetics.

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