July 5, 2011

Cy Twombly "avoided publicity throughout his life and mostly ignored his critics, who questioned constantly..."

"... whether his work deserved a place at the forefront of 20th-century abstraction, though he lived long enough to see it arrive there. It didn’t help that his paintings, because of their surface complexity and whirlwinds of tiny detail – scratches, erasures, drips, penciled fragments of Italian and classical verse amid scrawled phalluses and buttocks – lost much of their power in reproduction."
The critical low point probably came after a 1964 exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York that was widely panned. The artist and writer Donald Judd, who was hostile toward painting in general, was especially damning even so, calling the show a fiasco. “There are a few drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line,” he wrote in a review. “There isn’t anything to these paintings.”

But by the 1980s, with the rise of neo-Expressionism, a generation of younger artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat found inspiration in Mr. Twombly’s skittery bathroom-graffiti scrawl...

In the only written statement Mr. Twombly ever made about his work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.”
RIP, Cy Twombly.

41 comments:

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Hoh said...

Completely OT: Anybody else watching the Women's World Cup?

John said...

I have never heard of, nor to the best of my knowledge, seen any paintings by this artist. Which brings me to why I love this bog. You just never know what you're going to find.

Fred4Pres said...

DSK should buy this painting.

Alex said...

Another case of garbage writers celebrating garbage artists. There is a special circle of hell for them.

PaulV said...

phalluses and buttocks

Someone know little of heterosexual reproduction.

traditionalguy said...

It is like a cave painting by someone who never hunted an animal but still wanted to record his most exhilarating experience where it would be found someday and seen. I scratch drawings, therefore I am.

The Crack Emcee said...

Goodbye, Mr. Twombly, you lucky dog. It sounds as though brushes with transcendence were your life, and you also figured out how to keep it that way.

I applaud you, Sir. R.I.P.

Carol_Herman said...

It's a wonder that Picasso became famous.

(Though I like some of his stuff.)

This guy's? Because every line is an experience? Hardly likely to work out.

Let alone if you bought a few ... then hanging them up on your wall space. What's to admire?

Is one curve a torso line on a nude? Well, can't you read anything you want into lines?

I think I'll go draw something.

Palladian said...

A great artist. RIP.

Henry said...

Twombly is one of my favorite artists, but the quoted passage is correct. His work doesn't reproduce well and he has been a marginal figure. I have found a few show catalogs over the years, but publications on his work are hard to find.

His marginality is partly what I like about him. His work is expressive, playful, and fun. (I don't know if he himself was expressive, playful and fun, but I hope so.)

It should be noted that this isn't the first Althouse post on Twombly. I don't see any reason to rehash the critical discussion here. RIP.

virgil xenophon said...

"I think I'll go draw something"

I know a few managers/owners of galleries in both New Orleans and Venice Beach--can I be your business manager? Or should I strike out on my own as a competitor? From AA's post it's OBVIOUSLY verrrry easy to hype the natives..

Fred4Pres said...

I liked some of his work. There is just something about it, I cannot tell you why. It just is.

Sorry for my comment above, that was just a one liner joke, but that painting I linked too is a good one.

Fred4Pres said...

Leda and the Swan. Hence the DSK reference.

Fred4Pres said...

Not sure if DSK is Leda or the Swan.

edutcher said...

Again, proof modern art ain't.

A slightly more respectable Mapplethorpe, it would seem.

Oh, well, he went his own way and I hope he enjoyed it.

PS Swan.

ddh said...

A Cy Twombly reference in Art School Confidential:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wz2bAByWyI

Penny said...

"So each line was “the actual experience” of making the line."

It's not the destination, but the journey.

victoria said...

R.I.P. Cy. Your art moved me and gave me fodder for thinking.

Loved your stuff.


Vicki from Pasadena

Geoffrey Firmin said...

A great one passes. "Fifty Days at Iliam" in the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a real stunner and I drop by to take a look whenever I'm there.

Ann Althouse said...

"So each line was “the actual experience” of making the line. Tautology much?"

Tautology not at all.

traditionalguy said...

Seriously, Twombly did capture the milieux of his generation.

He sees a code being impressed upon human living folks that pulls them where it wants to like marionettes on the Code Maker's strings.

Do we believe that we draw our own lines. Or do we try to live free of lines.

yashu said...

RIP. One of my favorites, too. Love the Blackboard paintings, for reasons difficult to articulate, even to myself (like Fred4Pres says, "I cannot tell you why"). Was lucky enough to see an exhibition of his work in Chicago 2 years ago.

Somehow his preoccupation with & references to classical antiquity don't come off as academic & pedantic, as they so easily might, but (affect me at least) as poignant & profound. Yet his work is wonderfully light somehow, never ponderous (capturing something like, the eternal ephemerality of the human-- the scratchings & scribblings whereby we humans have always eked out meaning, even from meaninglessness). It transcends the petty timeliness of most contemporary art. But then, I'm a sucker for classical antiquity.

Apparently the British artist Tacita Dean made a documentary about him, currently being shown in London, here's a little something about it. Would love to see it.

Robert Cook said...

I love Twombly's work and find his paintings absolutely, mysteriously compelling. But one must see the actual paintings...as stated, the reproductions don't convey their beauty and presence.

Which is true of most good paintings, actually.

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

I had no idea who the guy was, so I did a Google image search on him.

Judging from the paintings returned by that search, I'm going to say that Donal Judd was right. I have better art attached to my fridge by magnets.

Fred4Pres said...

Too many people take art way too seriously. I am beyond anything anymore than just enjoying art that moves me.

somefeller said...

The Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection in Houston is a cold natural light masterpiece. RIP, Mr. Twombly.

Michael said...

To his credit Cy kept to himself and didnt swan around his lifestyle and his political theories. For this alone i exempted him from my contempt of modern art.

Clint said...

Was this the Twombly of 12(b)(6) fame?

James said...

I think he was much appreciated in Europe where he spent most of his time.

The Louvre commissioned a ceiling.

I H said...

Alright. Cy Twombly was one of those "artists" that I could never stand. I did not then, do not now, nor will I ever consider him an artist. The same goes for others: Jackson Pollock, Malevich and the suprematists, all the post-painterly abstractionists, just to name a few. It's like they all just threw up their hands and said, "Well. Every thing else has been done. Might as well just throw random colors on canvas and call it 'art'." And then they came up with good excuses for it, excuses good enough to convince critics that it really was art.

If they're artists at all, they're artists of BS.

You know, it's from people like these that I learned how to BS well myself. You can make anything art if you're good enough, a truth I learned well in my time during art school.

Now, my old art professors would hate me for saying this, but I think there really is a difference between what is and is not art and it is objective. It's just really hard to find where that line is. Are Bernini's sculptures art? Rembrandt's paintings? Quite obviously so. I think we could all agree. But is Pollock's work art? Malevich's? Some would say yes, others no (I am firmly in the 'no' camp, though I am unable to articulate why. The same goes for Twombly). What's the difference? It's really hard to say, but there is a difference.

I H said...

Sorry to sound so insensitive. It's not really about Twombly. I don't hate him. I really don't.

His death is a sad thing.

Skyler said...

My four year old painted better than that two years ago.

Henry said...

@I H -- With due respect you're asking yourself a really easy question. Don't compare Rembrandt to Twombly or Pollock. The answer just conforms to your premise. Compare Rembrandt to Hals. Or to Andrew Wyeth. Then compare Andrew Wyeth to N.C. Wyeth. Where do you draw your objective line then?

Skyler said...

Objective line? Well, you can start with "does it look like a typical two year old can create this?"

If the answer is yes, then it certainly is not art.

Skyler said...

Perhaps it might be decoration, but it would not be art.

grackle said...

example of Stuff White People Like:

Stupid art.

rcocean said...

You need to remember art is a business. Buy some squiggles on paper from a starving artist.

Get your art critic buddies to talk him up; then donate the "great art" to a museum & get a massive tax deduction.

roesch-voltaire said...

I have stood before a number of his paintings-- first time when I lived in NYC in 1960, and been engrossed in his zen-marked field of whites and creams ever since.

The Crack Emcee said...

Skyler,

Objective line? Well, you can start with "does it look like a typical two year old can create this?"

If the answer is yes, then it certainly is not art.


Bullshit. One of the points of greatness in art is to do what you would recognize as good art, and then to break that - to actively escape it.

The novice rarely acknowledges that, or even understands why it's necessary, or what makes the result good.

Sorry, but we won't be stuck with landscapes and nudes.