Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Entwined: The Life and Art of Agnes Martin

Happy Holiday by Agnes Martin, 1999, oil and graphite on canvas, five feet square (Tate Gallery)

“I paint with my back to the world.” – Agnes Martin, interviewed by Mary Lance, 2003.

Agnes Martin, the hermetic artist and creator of hermetic paintings that invite us to enter their quiet domain without any preconceptions or conscious thoughts, was such an international figure in the visual cultural arena and so prominent a reclusive presence in her hermitage studio in the Southwest of America, that people are often surprised to learn that she’s in fact a Canadian, born in Saskatchewan in 1912. But once you register her point of origin, and also remember what the flat and spacious physical geography of Saskatchewan looks like, then the austere and serene paintings she sends us, which I maintain are actually pure landscapes devoid of topographical features, then her entire oeuvre, which dramatically anticipated minimalism yet continued the evolution of abstract expression at the same time, suddenly makes shocking sense. As does her somewhat outside-the-mainstream art-world status, earned by her hard-fought battles with psychological crisis, isolation and her seemingly monkish devotion to a solitary existence in New Mexico, one that makes Georgia O’Keeffe come across like a party girl by comparison.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Movie Romances

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones in On the Rocks.

This article contains reviews of On the Rocks, A Rainy Day in New York, My Octopus Teacher and Love and Monsters.

Rashida Jones is very likable as Laura, a young Manhattanite wife and mother, in the new Sofia Coppola picture, On the Rocks, and the quiet scenes that focus on her emotional responses to situations, when she’s the only person on camera, showcase not just her but also Coppola’s gift for collaborating with her actors to capture quicksilver moods. And there are some very funny bits, somewhat reminiscent of old Paul Mazursky movies, built around Jenny Slate, who plays Vanessa, a friend of Laura’s through their middle-school daughters. Vanessa, a divorcee, chatters on, entirely uncensored, about her love life while she and Laura are ushering their daughters to various activities; it’s as if she weren’t aware that she’s trumpeting her troubles (which mostly concern her recent discovery that the man she’s been sleeping with is married) to the world.