I was having a bit of sit down in this gallery in the Whitney Museum of American Art having been through the Jeff Koons retrospective on the four floors below. Feeling a bit funny after all that Koons humour and colour and general gaudiness, I had found this room on the fifth floor. It is baffling.
What is going on here? I walk in, look at the 12 large silver framed pictures which are basically all white and a bit lined. I pull a face, read the blurb, find out they are by an artist called Agnes Martin who painted them in 1979. The blurb says “The Islands is among the most beloved works in the Whitney’s collection and is regarded as one of Martin’s great achievements. Hmmm.
If Martin had still been alive, I think she should have hung out in the gallery for 20 minute like I did and check out people’s reactions. They walk in one entrance, look at the room and smile, but then they look perplexed. If this were a cartoon, they would have a thought bubble above their heads that said “WTF?!?” Then most of them then look bored and walk on through.
Those who don’t get to the boredom stage check out the blurb, pull a face which says “eh?” and then walk out. The more intrigued then go and have a bit of a look at one or two and then clear off. The man next to me on the bench is reading his guide to NY and could be anywhere, he’s not bothered either.
After 20 minutes or so, having tried looking at the pictures by squinting, using just one eye and cocking my head to one side decide that she was just having a laugh. Bonkers.