MENE MENE TEKEL, 1955-56/1989

Oil on homasote with rusted nails
38.5 x 57.8 in.
(97.8 x 146.7 cm.)

Collection of the Artist

Mene Mene Tekel is one of a set of totem-like heads that Indiana painted in the mid-1950s. A figurative painting created early in the artist’s career, before he developed his signature hard-edge style, it reflects the influence of Jean Dubuffet and Byzantine art. The work, with its three heads strongly silhouetted against a bright silver background, was painted on homasote, and its richly textured surface is the result of a mix of thick pigment, gravel and sand.

Although Indiana began adding words to paintings in 1960, the text in Mene Mene Tekel was added over thirty years after he originally completed the work. The addition of the words, interspersed between the heads and painted in his signature stenciled letters, was inspired by a painting by the artist Marsden Hartley, in whom Indiana had developed an interest after moving to Vinalhaven. Hartley’s Fishermen’s Last Supper (1940-1941), a work depicting two Maine brothers and their cousin, who were destined to die tragically at sea, includes the words “Mene, Mene,” taken from a passage in the Old Testament Book of Daniel. The passage tells of God’s handwriting on the wall, of his message “Mene, Mene Tekel, Upharsin,” which warned of doom for the kingdom of Belshazzar. While Indiana’s addition of the ominous text to his work gives his allegorical heads a more menacing feel, it also serves as a homage to Hartley and the loss he commemorated in his painting. Indiana would further engage with Hartley’s art and the themes of friendship and loss in his Hartley Elegies (1989-1994), a series of paintings inspired by Hartley’s War Motif paintings.

Medium

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UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
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1945
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TECH

1945
500

500

1945
BEAN BUD

BEAN BUD

1945
GINKGO

GINKGO

1957/1959
HUB

HUB

1957/2005
SOURCE I

SOURCE I

1959
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THE SLIPS

1959-1960
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RA

1960
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ZIG

1960
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SOUL

1960
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1960
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1960
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1960
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M

1960
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1960
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1960
WALL OF CHINA

WALL OF CHINA

1960 - 1961
ELECTI

ELECTI

1960-1961
MARINE WORKS

MARINE WORKS

1960-1962
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MATE

1960-1962
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TWO

1960-1962
JEANNE D'ARC

JEANNE D'ARC

1960-1962
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1960-1962
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1960-1962
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1960-1962
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1960-1962
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1961
BALLYHOO

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1961
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1961
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1961
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1961
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1961/1984
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1962
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UP

1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962/1984
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1963
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1963-1964
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1963-1964
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1963-1964
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1963/1969
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1964
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1964
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1965
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TWO

1965
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THREE

1965
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1965
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FIVE

1965
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1965
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SEVEN

1965
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1965
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NINE

1965
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1965
MODEL T

MODEL T

1966
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LOVE

1966
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666

1966
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LOVE

1966-1999
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LOVE WALL

1966/2006
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LOVE

1967
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APOGEE

1970
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ART

1972-2001
AHAVA

AHAVA

1977
MONARCHY

MONARCHY

1981
FIVE

FIVE

1984
MARS

MARS

1990
ICARUS

ICARUS

1992
EVE

EVE

1997
AMOR

AMOR

1998-2006
COMET

COMET

2000