Cy Twombly: Treatise on the Veil
Cy Twombly Treatise on the Veil (Second Version), 1970 [Rome]
Oil-based house paint, wax crayon on canvas 118-1/8 x 393-5/8 (9 ft. 10-1/8 in. x 32 ft 9 inches)
The Menil Collection, Houston Photo: Erika Barahona Ede, ©FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao
October 30, 2009 - February 14, 2010
This exhibition showcases American artist Cy Twombly's monumental work, Treatise on the Veil (Second Version), painted in Rome in 1970. The second of two paintings (the first a 1968 painting in the collection of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne), it entered The Menil Collection in 1998 following the museum's 1995 completion of a building dedicated to Twombly's work. At close to thirty-three feet long, and one of the artist's largest canvases, due to its size it is rarely exhibited. In celebration of this rare hanging, the Menil will also exhibit more than a dozen related drawings and studies from the artist's private collection. While three of these works on paper were shown with the painting in the 2008 exhibition,
"Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons" at the Tate Modern, London, this will be the first time the entire group of drawings will be exhibited, and the first time they will be shown with the painting.
Among Twombly's most minimal and pared down works from a series of "grey-ground" paintings done between 1966 and 1971, the painting's title refers to Henri Pierre's 1951-53 French musique concrète composition, The Veil of Orpheus. From the ballet Orphée 53, the interpretation of the classical legend consists of a recording of cloth being torn. The artist was struck by the fluidity and duration of the piece, and has described the painting's broad horizontal extension with inscribed mathematical measurements that seem to read like a musical score, as representing a timeline without time. A response to the term durée, the temporality of the painting has been compared to the sequential cinematic motion of Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912. It also references Eadweard Muybridge's photograph of a bride in motion moving in front of a train, a gift to Twombly from fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Twombly was born in Lexington,Virginia in 1928 and studied at the influential Black Mountain College in North Carolina. His innovative use of the tradition of gestural abstraction, combined with a critical play with textual references to Greek and Roman mythology, and surrealist-inspired automatic writing techniques, has made Twombly one of the most important artists to have emerged in the wake of Abstract Expressionism. The artist moved to the Mediterranean in 1957, and currently lives and works in Rome and Virginia.