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Abstraction exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

An exhibition of some 90 rarely seen works by three artists who pioneered the development of modern abstraction: Hilma af Klint (Sweden, 1862 – 1963), Emma Kunz (Switzerland, 1892 – 1963) and Agnes Martin (Canada/US, 1912 – 2004), opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 25 January. 3 x Abstraction: New Methods of Drawing by Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz and Agnes Martin, a touring exhibition organised by The Drawing Center, New York, has already been shown in The Drawing Center and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. It is curated by Catherine de Zegher, Director of The Drawing Center and Hendel Teicher, independent curator. The exhibition won the Best Show Award from the International Critics Association, when it was shown at The Drawing Center.  The exhibition at IMMA is supported by the Embassy of Sweden.

Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz and Agnes Martin represent three generations of women artists who pursued non-traditional paths in visualising thought through geometric abstraction. Using line, geometry and the grid, af Klint, Kunz and Martin developed artistic means for expressing, diagramming and understanding philosophical, scientific and transcendental ideas. 

3 x Abstraction introduces the artistic contributions of af Klint and Kunz and re-visits the work of Martin from a new perspective. The drawings are presented within the context of recent research on the writings and approaches of the three artists. The works in 3 x Abstraction also bring into focus the role of modern and contemporary art in representing complex ideas.

The Artists  

Hilma af Klint (Sweden, 1862 – 1944) painted landscapes and portraits to earn her living. However, through her work with a group of women artists known as ‘The Five’, af Klint created experimental ‘automatic drawings’ as early as 1896, inspiring her to turn to abstraction. During this period her work showed strong similarities with early abstract artists such as Malevich, Mondrian and Kandinsky. Like these artists, she was inspired by theosophy and science. Af Klint was influenced by Rudolf Steiner’s idea that forms and colours could represent invisible forces. Later, she went on to produce more introverted studies of her spiritual experiences. Af Klint created more than 1,000 works that she stipulated be withheld from the public for 20 years after her death. The majority of the works in 3 x Abstraction by af Klint have never been seen before.

Emma Kunz (Switzerland, 1892 – 1963) was thought to be a powerful healer and an artist who created hundreds of drawings. In 1910, she began to make her first drawings and to experiment with telepathy, healing and divining with a pendulum. Kunz had no formal art training, but from 1923 – 39 was housekeeper for the painter and art critic Jacob Friedrich Welti. Beginning in 1938, Kunz created a series of complex drawings, made on graph paper. She used a pendulum to plan the structure of her drawings, and completed each work in one continuous session. She considered her drawings to be images of energy fields from which she would formulate diagnoses for her patients. In her book New Methods of Drawing she declares, “My pictures are for the twenty-first century”.

Agnes Martin (Canada/US, 1912 – 2004) was born on a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada and came to the US in 1952. In the late 1940s and the 1950s, Martin became interested in Asian philosophies, reading the Japanese scholar DT Suzuki and the Taoist philosophers Chuang-tzu and Lao-tzu. Although Martin never actively practised non-Western spiritual disciplines, she has drawn from their ideas. Her meditative grid drawings can be seen as representing a mental space that strives towards an impossible perfection. 3 x Abtraction is the first showing of several of her early drawings from 1960.

The Museum will host a seminar in association with Dublin Institute of Technology entitled Perspectives on Drawing: Exploring methods in drawing from a range of perspectives encompassing artists’ practice, interdisciplinary collaboration and access strategies from 3.00pm – 5.45pm on Wednesday 25 January. Admission is free, but booking is essential. To book please telephone the automatic booking line on
Tel: +353 1 612 9948 or email: [email protected]

A fully-illustrated catalogue, with essays by the following scholars, curators, and writers, accompanies the exhibition: Catherine de Zegher, Bracha L Ettinger, Briony Fer, Elizabeth Finch, Birgit Pelzer, Griselda Pollock, Hendel Teicher, and Kathryn A Tuma.

The Drawing Center acknowledges Altria Group, Inc., The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Getty Grant Program, and the New York State Council on the Arts for their major support of this exhibition.

3 x Abstraction continues until 26 March 2006. Admission is free.

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am – 5.30pm
except Wednesday   10.30am – 5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays 12 noon – 5.30pm
Monday Closed 
For further information and images please contact Monica Cullinane or Patrice Molloy at Tel: +353 1 612 9900; Email: [email protected]

11 January 2006