The film is silent, apart from seven moments at which excerpts from Bach’s
Goldberg Variations come in for two or three minutes at a time.
The boy was played by Peter Mayne, who was from Cuba, New Mexico
(where Martin lived at the time). Martin referred to Mayne as ‘a little hippie boy’
and noted that though he looks about ten years old, he was in fact fourteen.
Gabriel was filmed in various locations in the American Southwest, including
California, Colorado and New Mexico.
Agnes Martin near her house in Cuba, New Mexico, 1974
photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni
On the title of the film, the artist noted that she chose an angel’s name to
represent innocence. Martin said she wanted to make a film
“about happiness and innocence. I’ve never seen a movie or read a story that was
absolutely free of any misery. And so, I thought I would make one. The whole
thing is about a little boy who has a day of freedom, in which he feels free.”
“Agnes Martin is a great painter and whatever she does has an importance.
Her film is no great cinema, that I have to state at the outset. But it is a very beautiful film.
[…] Agnes Martin’s film is about water, about countryside, flowers, nature, and mystery.”
reviewed it in his ‘Movie Journal’ column in the Soho Weekly News