Roving Eye: Shadows of Twombly


Traveling eyes more than roving eyes this week. I was in Houston to attend the Cy Twombly memorial at the Menil Collection, where the artist has a permanently installed gallery of works created in a collaboration between him, the Menil and Dia. It was the perfect occasion to revisit Twombly’s importance and the reasons I have struggled, embraced, refused and loved this work. The pavilion is breathtaking, and my attention was drawn in particular to a small 1957 white painting with whispers of red. All of Twombly’s interests are already in motion between the four corners of this canvas—the traces, the marks, the viscosity. In all his work there is the intense elegiac spirit of Twombly—his baroque violence, his exigent sophistication, his Arcadian idleness, his rebellious erudition, his irreverent eroticism, his uncompromising abandon, his absolute jubilation and his freedom.

Also at the Menil Collection is one of the most exceptional and unexpected exhibitions this year: the first major museum exhibition in the United States dedicated to the work of Walter De Maria. Titled “Trilogies,” the exhibition features three bodies of De Maria’s work: “Statement Series” (1968), three 14- to 20-foot-long monochromatic paintings; “Channel Series: Circle, Square, Triangle” (1972); and the most recent work, the “Bel Air Trilogy” (2000–2011), which I could describe, but I won’t. One truly needs to make the journey and be surprised. The only part I will reveal is that the installation involves three 1955 Chevrolet Bel Airs. The rest is for your eyes to see, your mind to perceive and your vision to process.

I could stop right there, as it’s difficult to think of another work of art that would rival the presence of these works.

But then I arrived at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., where Dia’s collection of Andy Warhol’s “Shadows” are presented for the very first time in their entirety. The 102 canvases hung along the circular architecture, make for this, at least for the run of the show, Warhol’s Rothko Chapel. It is vertiginous, cinematic, dramatic and infinitesimal.

Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978–79. Dia Art Foundation. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Photo: Bill Jacobson.