Agnes Martin Documentary at Film Forum

There are very few artists I'd like to see a documentary about. For one thing, the narrative arc of a movie is usually ill-suited to either an artist's story/ideas or to the experience of the work itself. And no one can hold still, for fear, I guess, of boring the viewer, so there are invariably lots of slow pans, zooms in and out, dolly shots through empty galleries [if the budget's high enough to lay track, though I've seen a cameraman improvise a dolly by sitting in a mail cart.]

And their ostensible populism usually results in a grating boosterism of PBS or the Hagiographic School, whereby the case must be made for the Artist As Genius. [Damn populist medium again, but the October-y intellectual monkey tricks of art critical dialogue never seem to find their way into documentaries. It's as if everyone figures they need to dumb it down, or maybe it's just impossible to edit paragraph-long sentences into anything remotely watchable.]

Which is all a long way around to saying that Agnes Martin is one artist I would love to see working and hear talking, and not just because I miss her in some irrational, oddly personal way. [I never met her.] I have some old lecture notes from a talk she gave at ICA or someplace, and they are windswept-free of pretense and the cruft of art criticism and history.

From the review of Mary Lance's documentary, “Agnes Martin: With My Back to the World,” which she shot over four years, starting in 1998, Martin sounds like a refreshing, invigorating, and lucid counterpoint to the careerist whirl of the art world today. [And on top of that she sold tons of work.]

Anyway, Lance's film opened yesterday at Film Forum, and it's paired with a documentary about Kiki Smith. Lance will conduct a Q&A after the 8pm screening Friday [tomorrow].

Previously: Im Memoriam: Agnes Martin

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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