Agnes Bernice Martin, RCA (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004), was a Canadian-born American abstract painter. Her work has been defined as an “essay in discretion on inward-ness and silence”. Although she is often considered or referred to as a minimalist, Martin considered herself an abstract expressionist. She was awarded a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2004.
Martin became an inspiration to younger artists, from Eva Hesse to Ellen Gallagher.
In 1994, the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, part of the University of New Mexico, announced that it would renovate its Pueblo-revival building and dedicate one wing to Martin’s work. The gallery was designed according to the artist’s wishes in order to accommodate Martin’s gift of seven large untitled paintings made between 1993 and 1994. An Albuquerque architectural firm, Kells & Craig, designed the octagonal gallery with an oculus installed overhead, and four yellow Donald Judd benches placed directly under the oculus. The gift of the paintings and gallery’s design and construction were negotiated and overseen by Robert M. Ellis, the Harwood’s director at the time and a close friend of Martin’s. Today, the Agnes Martin Gallery attracts visitors from all over the world and has been compared by scholars to the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Matisse Chapel), Corbusier’s Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, and the Rothko Chapel in Houston.