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Art Curatorial

Can I walk on it?

Carl Andre (American, b. 1935) 144 Pieces of Zinc, 1967 Zinc plates each plate: 12 x 12 x 3/8 in. (30.48 x 30.48 x 0.95 cm) Purchase, National Endowment for the Arts Matching Funds M1969.22 Photo credit Larry Sanders © Carl Andre/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Carl Andre (American, b. 1935), 144 Pieces of Zinc, 1967. Zinc plates;
each plate: 12 x 12 x 3/8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, National Endowment for the Arts Matching Funds M1969.22.
Photo by Larry Sanders.
© Carl Andre/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Yes!

Carl Andre’s 144 Pieces of Zinc is one of the few artworks in the Museum’s Collection that is meant to be experienced physically, and that visitors may touch.  The artist felt that the qualities inherent in the material were the most important aspect of his work, and that they were meant to be discovered through touch.

Imagine 144 Pieces of Zinc wasn’t in a museum, but, say, come upon in a hardware store surrounded by a bunch of home improvement tiles.   You don’t have to imagine.  The Tate Museum did it.  They installed their collection’s 144 Magnesium Square on the floor in a hardware store in Liverpool, England, and then asked residents of Liverpool what they thought about seeing the minimalist work in a non-art context.

As you see in the video, people have strong feelings about this sort of thing…

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Art

From the Collection–Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #10”

Agnes Martin. Untitled #10, 1977. Gesso, India ink, and graphite on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art. Photo credit Dedra Walls. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Agnes Martin. Untitled #10, 1977. Gesso, India ink, and graphite on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art. Photo credit Dedra Walls. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Agnes Martin’s work can be tricky, all lines and grids and pale neutrals. It used to make me wonder, what’s the big deal? Pencil marks and a wash of color–not so impressive. I chalked it up to those nutty Abstract Expressionists and Minimalists, divorcing themselves from the real world and delving into a world I didn’t know how to get into.

But then I got a job as a docent at my college’s art museum, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. I gave tours, but I also spent a lot of time in the galleries at the docent’s table, where we waited for visitors to ask us questions (and maybe did some homework when things were slow). The table was situated right across from their Martin, The Harvest (1965). Being forced to look at this painting nearly every day, at least for a few minutes before a visitor approached me, completely changed the way I viewed Agnes Martin’s work. The Harvest, with its imperfect grid and odd “T” in the corner, became a quirky friend I saw each week–a comforting presence away from papers and tests.

But I’d never spent any long, uninterrupted time with an Agnes Martin. Seeking some quiet time away from my email inbox this past week, I wandered past Milwaukee’s Agnes Martin painting and then stopped and turned around.

It was time for a 45-minute slow look at Untitled #10.