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Agnes Martin and Coenties Slip, NY

Travel to New York's Coenties Slip and a community of artists including Agnes Martin, Betty Parsons, Ellsworth Kelly, Lenore Tawney, Chryssa, Robert Indiana, Jack Youngerman and more...

This is Chapter Nine to Agnes Martin: Pioneer, Painter, Icon (published 2018). This chapter discusses the neighbourhood of Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan, where Agnes Martin lived for ten years among artists including Ellsworth Kelly, Lenore Tawney, Robert Indiana, Chryssa, John Cage and Jack Youngerman. The chapter introduces the reader to the history of the Slip, the bohemian lifestyle of its residents and how the neighbourhood and artists influenced Agnes Martin professionally and personally. In doing so, the chapter explores sexism and homophobia in the New York art world of the 1950s and 60s, abstract expressionism, gender roles, and Agnes Martin's romantic​ and professional relationship with the dealer Betty Parsons. The chapter also explores Martin's studio practice, her mental health, and her 'discovery' of her signature minimalist style expressing geometric patterns and grids on the canvas.

I uploaded this chapter to my account, and from November 2020 to October 2021 it was read across the world from Korea, Sweden, Philippines, and China, to universities including Universidade de São Paulo, University College London, and Universität Heidelberg.

As is apparent on this website, I have a lot to say on the subject of biographies and art history, but for those who are new to my work, I thought it was worth sharing the project that started it all. The book, of course, is available through all good bookshops and libraries, and if you happen to get your hands on a copy and enjoy it, please do consider leaving a review on any number of online platforms.

The Coenties Slip community was aware of itself as an artistic enclave. It consciously separated itself from the uptown world of the Abstract Expressionists and the Union Square populism of Andy Warhol’s factory, and marketed itself accordingly. In the 1959 Seaman’s Church Institute Christmas newsletter The Lookout, the writer Faye Hammel, in her article Bohemia on South Street, praised the Coenties Slip artists for their seriousness: “Refreshingly unlike the residents of most Bohemias, they spend little time talking about their work, most of their time actually engaged in it.”

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