Robert Motherwell, ‘Face of the Night (For Octavio Paz)’, ca. 1977 -1981, Dedalus Foundation

Motherwell worked on this painting for several years, eventually painting large areas of black over most of the brightly colored areas and titling it after a phrase in a poem by his friend Octavio Paz: “door of being, dawn and wake me, / allow me to see the face of this day, / allow me to see the face of this night.” Motherwell discussed in detail the radical transformations that this painting went through, and in 1985 he wrote that this painting was in a sense “literary” in the way it combined various submerged and indirect references, such as its Mexican color, and the sense of “ominousness that is one major chord in
the Mexican experience.”

Additional information provided by the Dedalus Foundation

Image rights: © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA. New York, NY

Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Museum purchase, the Friends of Art Endowment Fund

About Robert Motherwell

Alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell is considered one of the great American Abstract Expressionist painters. His esteemed intellect not only undergirded his gorgeous, expressive paintings—frequently featuring bold black shapes against fields of color—but also made Motherwell one of the leading writers, theorists, and advocates of the New York School. He forged close friendships with the European Surrealists and other intellectuals over his interests in poetry and philosophy, and as such served as a vital link between the pre-war avant-garde in Europe and its post-war counterpart in New York, establishing automatism and psychoanalysis as central concerns of American abstraction. "It's not that the creative act and the critical act are simultaneous," Motherwell said. "It's more like you blurt something out and then analyze it.

American, 1915-1991, Aberdeen, Washington, based in New York and Greenwich, Connecticut