No one knows why Newman, a pioneer of abstract expressionism and color field painting, chose the color blue for his last canvas. But one wonders if there might be a connection to a mysterious color mentioned in the Bible: tekhelet, which adorned the fringes of the ancient priestly robe and Jewish ritual prayer garment (tallit).
What purity of meaning did Newman glimpse as he made his last painting? Perhaps that God’s name, like the secret of creativity and the mystery of tekhelet, is—and will always be—Untitled.
What we see, in life and in art, often depends on what we believe.
Choose as many words as you like.
Yvonne Rand, a Zen Buddhist priest and meditation teacher in Northern California, wrote this reflection on seeing a Martin painting in a private residence; Rand was by herself, undisturbed:
The risk in looking at work with apparently repetitious elements is tending to a quick reaction, to a generalization, even before one is fully present with the work. Agnes Martin challenges our habitual ways of experiencing the world, be they in ordinary daily experiences, with one’s breath, or in looking at a work of art.
Our frantic, noisy, alienated culture challenges and erodes the capacity for stillness and quiet. Agnes Martin’s paintings require the viewer to be still, to be present, to allow the mind to soften if any shifts into expanded and heightened consciousness are to occur.