Artist Martha Diamond, Who Immortalized New York in Her Abstract Cityscapes, Has Died

The artist was 79.

Martha Diamond in 2021. Photo courtesy of Olivia Funk/Martha Diamond Trust/David Kordansky Gallery.

Martha Diamond, the painter best known for her abstract cityscapes, died on December 30, 2023, at age 79. Her passing was announced by David Kordansky Gallery, which represents the artist.

“When I first encountered Martha’s extraordinary work, I was instantly blown away,” David Kordansky said in a statement. “Beyond the striking visual elements and her command of color and texture, there is so much feeling emanating from the canvas. These are the stories and legacies that I have the privilege and duty to share and honor. Martha will be deeply missed.”

Diamond, born in 1944 and raised in Queens, developed an early fixation with the New York City skyline from her car rides into Manhattan with her father, an internal medicine doctor. “Taking the highway into Manhattan, I got to see buildings and bridges and tanks,” she told Artforum in 2021, “and I liked what I saw.”

Diamond left New York to study art at Carleton College in the 1960s, before moving to Paris with a friend, the sculptor Donna Dennis, in 1964. She soon returned and graduated with a master’s degree in art and art education from New York University in 1969. She rented her first studio space near Union Square around this time and befriended the likes of art critic Peter Schjeldahl, artist Alex Katz, and many celebrated poets.

Martha Diamond, High-C (1982). Photo courtesy of Martha Diamond Trust/David Kordansky Gallery.

By the 1970s, Diamond moved into her studio in the nearby Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan, where she remained throughout her career. In this era, Diamond began creating her series of cityscapes, capturing the energy and poetry of her hometown with vigorous line work, contrasting tones, and an evocative use of negative space.

Her first museum acquisition came in 1973 when the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, purchased one of her works. Around this time, she had two back-to-back group shows at the museum. Other significant shows include a solo museum exhibition at Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Maine in 1988, her inclusion in the Whitney Biennial in 1989, and a solo exhibition at the New York Studio School in 2004.

Installation view of Martha Diamond paintings at Bowdoin College Museum of Art in 1988. Photo courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.

In her six-decade career, Diamond was awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1980 and 1983 and an Academy Award for Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. In 2018, she was elected to the National Academy of Design.

Diamond’s work has been collected by institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

The David Kordansky Gallery also recognized Diamond for her contributions to education as a faculty member of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture through the 1970s and a member of its board of governors until 2018. She also taught at Harvard University and the the Yale Norfolk School of Art, among other institutions.

“I just try to give back something of what I was lucky enough to come into,” she said of her work in education. “When I was teaching at the School of Visual Arts, I tried always to help the women, because the women were not the focus in the university at the time… Without really making even a big thing about it to myself, I always tried to make sure that I gave the women what they needed to do what they wanted to do.”

Martha Diamond, Wind (1986). Photo courtesy of Martha Diamond Trust/David Kordansky Gallery.

The David Kordansky Gallery will present its first solo exhibition of Diamond’s work at its Los Angeles gallery from March 23 through April 27. A major survey of her work, “Martha Diamond: Deep Time,” will debut at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine on July 13, before it travels to the Aldrich Museum from November 17 through May 18, 2025.

 

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