Agnes Martin Leaned Out . . . Thankfully

Sheryl Sandberg wants women to "lean in" so as to compete better with the boys. Since she hit the market with her book last year, I've wondered why she didn't urge the boys just to lean the hell back a bit instead. After all, quietness has power. When a musician wants to be heard in a loud room the best thing is to start playing softly. True leaders know how to reach people with a well chosen and well timed statement or observation. The kind that blossoms in the mind for a long time after the original utterance, with the import becoming ever-more clear. This was the heart of Liev Schreiber's portrayal of Boston Globe editor Marty Baron in last year's Best Picture, Spotlight.

Agnes Martin (1912 - 2004) was a master of quiet art. Thankfully, she found the resolve not to create loud and "heroic" works, just because the Abstract Expressionist Boys were doing it. In the 50s she was friends with artists such Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, gay men who also rejected the machismo of the Pollacks and DeKoonings. But she went her own way, demonstrating her unique take on the strength of minimalist subtlety. The piece shown here is from the 1990s, by which time she was living in New Mexico. The Guardian has an excellent article about Martin and her later years called "Agnes Martin: The Artist Mystic Who Disappeared Into the Desert."


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