Agnes Pelton was overlooked during her lifetime, but her paintings are eternal. Deeply abstract and yet grounded in shape and line—she has a predilection for looming landmasses, jellyfish-like veils, rings of light, and the alignment of planets and stars—her work lays bare the workings of the universe. She once described her process as “painting with a moth’s wing and with music instead of paint.” These are cosmic visions projected from the sleeping desert floor. The first retrospective of her work in more than two decades, “Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist,” is on view through November 1 at the recently reopened Whitney Museum of American Art. A selection of images from the show appears below.
Agnes Pelton, Future, 1941, oil on canvas, 30 × 26″. Collection of Palm Springs Art Museum, seventy-fifth anniversary gift of Gerald E. Buck in memory of Bente Buck, best friend and life companion.
Agnes Pelton, Messengers, 1932, oil on canvas, 28 × 20″. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum; gift of The Melody S. Robidoux Foundation.
Agnes Pelton, Orbits, 1934, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 30″. Oakland Museum of California; gift of Concours d’Antiques, the Art Guild of the Oakland Museum of California.
Agnes Pelton, Day, 1935, oil on canvas, 25 1/4 × 23 1/2″. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum; gift of The Melody S. Robidoux Foundation.
Agnes Pelton, Departure, 1952, oil on canvas, 24 x 18″. Collection of Mike Stoller and Corky Hale Stoller. Photo: Paul Salveson.
Agnes Pelton, The Blest, 1941, oil on canvas, 37 1/2 x 28 1/4″. Collection of Georgia and Michael de Havenon. Photo: Martin Seck.
“Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist” will be on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art through November 1.