The Morgan Library has on display, Treatise on the Veil, a Cy Twombly work that feels a bit out of place in the grand robber baron interiors. Because of the scale and content, the painting threatens to break out of the room and into the street.

This massive piece should be shown in an aircraft hangar or mounted on the berlin wall (happy anniversary) or stood up in a field like a drive-in movie theater screen for everyone to accelerate towards it to get an appropriate sense of relationship from it.  Maybe it should be in Marfa.


It is a remarkable piece of work, warm grey washes that cool out and intensify in the vigorous signature hatchings of Twombly, but also distant, like the ocean on the Cape as a storm rolls in, desaturated greens, olive rubbed into charcoal and frenetic but so massive that it all smooths out into a void of a rectangle.

Inscribed on the washes and marks of oil house paint, Twombly marks out a timeline, text marks the entry and the exit of the viewer.  The text and architectural marks serve as a diagram for the experience of the piece.  Instructions to the invisible or yet to be felt.

The painting is designed to move you and structure space  even as it threatens to pull it all in through it’s vacuum.  JPMorgan’s entire library, grand lobby frescos, and million manuscripts, crumpling up into the gravitational pull of this portal to be collapsed and shredded by the infinite nothing of blank minimalist futurity.

Only the hatchmarks on the surface, the notations, like an interpreted score to the  music that inspired the work will keep you from falling in.  This reflection on the surface is our handiwork, the feeble note from that present to this time.

If you watch it long enough, it will move imperceptibly, like the surface of an ocean as seen from a plane.