My Texas ramble continues in Austin with a reason to return: earlier this month, the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas Austin announced the imminent alightment of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin on university grounds. For the 91-year-old artist, Austin marks many firsts: It will be his first free-standing structure, his first foray into stone and his first representation of color in glass and light. The 2,175-square-foot stone building will be inlayed with luminous glass windows, a totemic wood sculpture, and 14 black-and-white marble panels. The building, originally conceived in 1986 as a private commission, was never built because Kelly insisted on public access. While singular in form, Austin reflects Kelly’s lifelong interest in abstract distillation, of hard lines and color divisions.
“Austin is part of a journey that began nearly 70 years ago,” Kelly said in a museum release. A journey that began in Boston, continued in Paris, and endured in his studio, informed by lasting inspirations: the 12th century fresco he discovered as a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; his affinity for Romanesque and Byzantine art and architecture, forged while studying in Paris on the G.I. Bill after serving in World War II; the rose light bath of Chartres Cathedral. Yet, unlike the religiosity of these European monuments, Kelly imagined a space defined by amorphous spirituality, where purity and simplicity of form could be a conduit for experiencing calm and light.
“Go there and rest your eyes, rest your mind,” he told the New York Times of his intention for Austin. “Enjoy it.” As I am enjoying this city and its creativity (epitomized by artist makers like Alyson Fox).