Over the course of a career that spanned fifty years, Agnes Martin's austere, serene work anticipated and helped to define Minimalism, even as she battled psychological crises and carved out a solitary existence in the American Southwest. 'I paint with my back to the world', she claimed; when she died at ninety-two, in Taos, New Mexico, it is said she had not read a newspaper in half a century. Nancy Princenthal tells her whole story chronologically - from Martin's birth in Saskatchewan and her early years as an artist, living in derelict Manhattan shipping lofts as neighbour to Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly and others of their ilk; to the seven years she stopped painting, just as her career was taking off; the months she spent roaming the country in a pick-up truck; and her last thirty years, in Taos, in an adobe house she built with her own hands. Nancy Princenthal has written the essential Agnes Martin biography; a must-read for anyone interested in abstract painting or the history of women artists in America.
Nancy Princenthal has been writing about contemporary art for more than 25 years. In addition to serving as senior editor at Art in America for five years, she has contributed to, among others, the New York Times, the Village Voice, Artforum and Bookforum. Her monograph on Hannah Wilke, the American feminist artist, was selected as an outstanding book by the New York Times. She was a lecturer in the Visual Arts Program at Princeton from 1993 to 2004 and has taught at Yale; New York University, Tisch School of the Arts; the Rhode Island School of Design; and elsewhere.