American art historian Kirk Varnedoe, in Pictures of Nothing, the series of Mellon lectures on abstract art since Jackson Pollock that he delivered shortly before his death in 2003, made the sometimes overlooked point that not all abstraction has been about “its noisy, declarative protagonists”; that, in fact, almost “a quarter of contemporary abstraction … is about whispers, innuendo, confidences exchanged intimately rather than publicly declared”.

“We don’t want our personality in the art,” Ellsworth Kelly once said. “We all had to get over Picasso, because his was ‘great personality’ art. We were trying to get away from the ‘I’, as in ‘Look how well I do it.'”

There is a noticeable strand of solitariness in recent American art, of city-born artists leaving the cities in pursuit of what might be thought of as anti-experience – attempts to quiet the mind.
Kelly’s great friend and contemporary Agnes Martin…fled the Manhattan of the 1950s for the flat, open spaces of New Mexico. There, for the next 40 years, she devoted herself to making paintings which, as she put it, “have neither object nor space nor time nor anything – no forms”.
The numinous quality of Martin’s paintings – the way light seems to be stored up inside them – has inevitably evoked a spiritual experience. Such responses have been encouraged by Martin’s writings, which extol the virtues of the solitary life. “I suggest to artists that you take every opportunity of being alone, that you give up having pets and unnecessary companions,” she once wrote. “I suggest that people who like to be alone, who walk alone, will be serious workers in the art field.”

The Guardian