Guggenheim is a fun place for exhibitions. Compared to other museums and galleries where exhibition is usually organized in discrete “units” or “episodes” in separate rooms, Guggenheim’s spiral makes transition much more continuous and fluid. No changing direction from wall to wall, nor going to the middle after traversing the sides, there is just one path to follow and one barely notices the transition as moving along from one set to another. As the spiral ascends, understanding deepens. And right at the zenith, the exhibit comes to its climax, where normally on display is the artist’s last work. But then instead of drawing to a hard stop and exit, one naturally spirals down and experiences the works again, in the reverse order, like going back in time to the very beginning. “I am here at the same spot again, but everything is different now because of the journey I just took.”
The Agnes Martin exhibit, to me, implicitly, is a journey of finding a unique artistic language through exploration and practice. In the early paintings, she was mostly borrowing the language (means of creation) from other artists. After trying out numerous ones, she started to focus on her elements of choice, lines and grids. Then there was an evident process of practice and creation. Repeating and bootstrapping the simple line and grid form in painstaking details, she was diligent and meticulous. It was just like inventing a new language, creating an alphabet, making up words, construct sentences and narratives through trial and error. It wasn’t easy. It was daunting. The departure from New York was a major inflection point – the nirvana moment, after which the lines, grids and color strips became her own language, complete with her own grammar and vocabulary, directly attached to her feelings. Eventually she found an infinite amount of artistic freedom. As a master and commander of her own language, she was free to tell her emotions of happiness, love, beauty, and eternity.
What an achievement! Look close, step back, joyous, exhilarating, happy.