Not Minimal

March 25 – June 30, 2012

Agnes Martin, Marischa Burckhardt, Robert Ryman, Merrill Wagner, Anne Appleby

On 22 March, it is one hundred years to the day since the birth of the American artist Agnes Martin. To mark the occasion, De 11 Lijnen in Oudenburg has organised an exhibition in homage. Works by Agnes Martin are surrounded by paintings by Marischa Burckhardt, Robert Ryman, Merrill Wagner and Anne Appleby. The result is no minimalist ensemble, but a warm exhibition about nature, light, landscapes and friendship. Despite their tough reputation, the artists exhibited do not see themselves as minimalists. Agnes Martin considered herself to be an abstract expressionist and Ryman calls himself a realist. Burckhardt, Wagner and Appleby have a special interest in nature.

After Agnes Martin left New York in 1967, she withdrew to the desert of New Mexico and stopped painting. Samuel Green, the former director of the ICA in Philadelphia, and a good friend, insisted that she should pick up her paintbrushes once again. I won’t let you go, he warned, before you return to painting. And in 1974, Agnes Martin painted for the first time in seven years. She made a splendid series of fourteen small paintings, which are exhibited here for the very first time, thanks to the generous proposal of James Mayor, the London gallery owner and admirer of Agnes Martin.

Lieven Van Den Abeele


Agnes Martin (Saskatchewan, Canada, 1912 – Taos, New Mexico, 2004) began her artistic career in the early 1940s. From landscapes and surreal images, her work evolved in the 1950s to abstract paintings characterised by their square format, spare use of colour and her preference for the grid motif and the horizontal of the horizon line. Her abstract geometric paintings are counted as fundamental painting and minimal art. With her serene art, which is not based on ideas but on inspiration, she considered herself to be an abstract expressionist.

Marischa Burckhardt (Dresden, 1927) is not only an artist but also a writer and a poet. On her many travels she visited numerous artists and she regularly reported on these encounters. In the 1970s she also visited Agnes Martin. This resulted in a book entitled Zu Besuch bei Agnes Martin in New Mexico [A Visit to Agnes Martin in New Mexico]. Formally, her visual work is very diverse. Her interest for nature is given form in photographs and videos, installations and land art projects, abstract oil paintings on canvas and oil pastels on handmade paper. Marischa Burckhardt lives and works in Basel.

Robert Ryman (Nashville, Tennessee, 1930) is generally considered to be a minimal artist. He, however, calls himself a realist. Since 1959, he has made exclusively white, square abstract paintings, where the material of the painting is considered as its own reality. He does not wonder what he must paint, but how he must paint. In its pictorial research, he experiments with different paints, surfaces and styles of painting and me- thods of applying paint. The art of Ryman evolves, analogous with the history of pain- ting, very slowly. As a result, the possibilities of the medium have yet to be exhausted. “Abstract painting has only just begun”. Robert Ryman lives and works in New York.

Merrill Wagner (Seattle, Washington, 1935) makes abstract geometric landscapes, in which she combines memories of nature with the compelling character of the material she has chosen. Several brands of the same colour, grey or orange, show striking dif- ferences, which she exploits in her paintings. She doesn’t just paint on canvas, but also on slate or rolled steel, of which the corrosion becomes the texture of her paintings. She considers the patterns that arise to be mental landscapes. Merrill Wagner lives and works in New York

Anne Appleby (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1954) makes monochrome paintings that are brought together in small series of square or rectangular canvases in coherent en- sembles, that she considers as abstract landscapes. Titles such as Red Oak, Salmon Pea or March Aspen, refer both to the colour and to nature. What links nature and pain- ting is light. She recognises a subtle beauty in fragility and ever-changing temporality. The natural cycle of plants and flowers is the perfect metaphor. Anne Appleby lives and works in San Francisco and in Jefferson City, Montana.