Abstract-expressionist painter Agnes Martin (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004) could be said to have done for modern art what composer John Cage has done for music. Taken with the lectures of Japanese Zen Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki, Martin brought to her work a secular interest in Buddhist thought and its principles of pure presence and direct expression, reflected in her signature grids and minimalist, ethereal geometric drawings.

Though she never analyzed her own work explicitly on the public record, the ethos at its heart is perhaps best captured obliquely, through Martin’s famous comment about the painter Mark Rothko, whom she applauded for having “reached zero so that nothing could stand in the way of truth.”

A recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998, Martin went on to influence generations of artists and endures as one of the most distinctive creative voices of the 20th century.