The Georgia O'Keeffe show at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is getting a lot of publicity, and rightfully so. But there's an O'Keeffe contemporary who also raised some eyebrows in the art world, and Cottonwood Center for the Arts is honoring her legacy in conjunction with the FAC.
A Sense of Calm: Minimalist Work Inspired by Agnes Martin focuses on minimalist pieces from artists around the Front Range and the country. And the juror for the show happens to have work housed at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim.
Meet Power Boothe. You can find examples of his work — some on loan from Colorado College, and some from his own collection — displayed with the Cottonwood show. You can also hear him speak there on either Friday or Saturday night. Boothe counts Martin as a major influence in a career he launched from Colorado College (Class of 1969).
"There are two types of art, in my opinion," says Boothe. "You have 'Wow' art, and you have 'Ahh' art."
"Wow" art, he says, is what fills most galleries, and it's created to hit the observer with something right away. "It's fast, gets to the point, and it kind of bores me.
"'Ahh' art, on the other hand, makes you think. Agnes Martin's has a lot of 'Ahh.' It can invite you in. You have to get in and stay with that work and think about it. I'll tell you, as a young artist, her work opened a door for me."
Martin's work is mostly done with a muted palette of grays, light blues, peach and black, and is composed using a grid pattern that Cottonwood's Karen Khoury says helped the New Mexican artist bring order to her life.
"The title [of the show] says a lot," explains Khoury, who's serving as curator. "Agnes Martin was all about finding a sense of calm, a sense of happiness. She was schizophrenic, and she found a way to deal with her demons through her art."
Khoury says among the 90-plus entries are some local ones, which speaks to her goal of catalyzing "a dialogue with the FAC and the arts community." That Boothe will be here to help with that makes it all sweeter for Khoury — she studied under Boothe in graduate school at Ohio University, considering him a mentor and then a friend. When it came time to put on this show, it seemed natural for him to be the one to jury it.
Boothe, who now is a professor at the University of Hartford, is enthusiastic about Martin in a way that brings out the 20-something in the 70-year-old artist.
"Jackson Pollock, Agnes Martin were both the same age," he says. "Pollock came into the art world like fire — I'm not even sure he knew everything he was doing — and then he was gone. But Agnes, oh! She was just coming into the style, and she got better and better."
That said, as he looks through the works submitted for the show, he's not seeking art that "does Agnes."
"I'm approaching it in [Martin's] preferred mode," he says. "She would say, 'I just want to have a blank mind.' And that's what I'm doing, having a blank mind and trying to find the 'Ahh.'"