Your life is defined in time. The way I relate to this in my work is by thinking of infinity: to the time of religion, of history…using shapes that have been significant to people for thousands of years.
—Martha Diamond, interviewed for the Whitney Biennial 1989
Colby College Museum of Art: July 13 to October 13, 2024
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum: November 17, 2024 to May 18, 2025
Martha Diamond is among the most perceptive painters of the last five decades. Her work’s formal concision and painterly bravado reflect an inner dialogue with generations of abstract artists, and the results are exceptional: an inimitable handling of gesture and space that reimagines the landscape tradition while deftly sliding between abstraction and representation. Comprised of paintings, works on paper, and monotypes, this focused survey of Diamond’s career proposes “deep time” as a new way of understanding her contribution to American painting.
As a concept, deep time has two histories: Enlightenment scientists, poets, and theologians have theorized it to trace symmetries and parallels across the development of human civilization, and geologists use it to describe cycles of stability and upheaval across many millions of years on this planet. In conversation with both ancient monuments and the modern skyscraper, and carrying its own distinctive psychology and ecology, Diamond’s art thinks about time and across time.
This exhibition spotlights the architectural and compositional fascinations that define Diamond’s singular vision. It emphasizes her unswerving commitment to capturing the emotional character of built space, tracking throughlines across mediums and methods to reveal a process that combines spirited experimentation with perceptive observation. The exhibition features rarely seen pieces from the Lower Manhattan studio Diamond has occupied since 1969, from the little-known “single-picture” images of the 1970s to the vertiginous paintings of her native New York City during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s to the vivid abstractions that increasingly characterized her later work.
The exhibition is accompanied by the artist’s first major monograph, an amply illustrated catalogue that includes an original essay by the exhibition’s co-curators, a chronology, and texts reprinted from some of Diamond’s most insightful critics: New York poets steeped in the visual arts. Martha Diamond: Deep Time documents the inspirations that converge in, and are transformed by, Diamond’s enigmatic and utterly original work.
This exhibition is co-organized by the Colby College Museum of Art and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, and co-curated by Colby’s Katz Consulting Curator, Levi Prombaum, and The Aldrich’s Chief Curator, Amy Smith-Stewart.
Martha Diamond (1944-2023) received a BA from Carleton College in Minnesota in 1964 and, after a period of living abroad in Paris, an MA from New York University in 1969. She was an active participant in New York’s art and poetry scenes in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her work has been shown at major New York galleries and institutions from the mid-1970s on, including solo exhibitions at Robert Miller Gallery, Brooke Alexander Gallery, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, and the New York Studio School and important group shows at Skarstedt, the Hill Art Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She also had concurrent solo exhibitions in 1988 at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, and the Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Her work is in the permanent collections of numerous institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Her work was in the former collection of The Aldrich and was exhibited at the museum in group exhibitions in 1973, 1974, 1985, and 1988. She is currently represented by David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and New York. For more information, please visit marthadiamondtrust.org.
Major support for Martha Diamond: Deep Time and the accompanying publication is provided by an anonymous donor. Generous support is provided by Agnes Gund, David Kordansky Gallery, and the Eric Diefenbach and James-Keith Brown Publications Fund.
Top image: Martha Diamond, Palisades, 1982. Oil on canvas. 84 x 56 inches (213.36 x 142.24 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, Gift of Alex Katz, 1986.048.