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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

CY TWOMBLY 1928-2011

cy twombly and his art

I saw on facebook a few minutes ago that American artist Cy Twombly died in Rome today age 83. Above are some samples of his work. Google his name and click on IMAGES in the upper left of the display to see a large variety of his paintings. I am in awe of what he does, have been for a long time. I've seen a few in museums, mostly in Art In America magazine. One I recall specifically was in a show at the Whitney, the biennial. I don't remember the year, late 90s. It was a very, very loose and brief sketch of a Joan Mitchell painting that was hanging at the Met representing her as abstract expressionist. He scrawled some grafitti on it as loosely and freely as it might have got in a subway station for a week. Standing before it, I could only be impressed by his vision, a kind-of cartoon of the public indifference to art, so indifferent the work by Joan Mitchell just another two-dimensional surface to scrawl a teenage ego onto, the same as a wall.

I like Twombly's use of the childlike scrawl as unselfconsciously as a child. He broke loose from an illusion of thought the first run of abstractionists in NY entertained. He takes the seriousness out of abstraction. Twombly was of the Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg generation that followed abstract expressionsim. They saw abstraction all around them. Jasper Johns saw the target, the flag, beer cans and other odd common shapes and colors. They did a kind of cross between abstract expressionism and pop. Twombly leaned more toward abstraction, but his has a lightness about it that says: this is not serious. He painted the principles of abstract painting, but in forms unexpected. The lightness in them is in how they feel and the air space that's in them. They appear weightless, and they appear as spontaneous as a child's scribblings. The childlike spontenaiety brings no mentation with it. He's something like a master of making the appearance over and over in various forms that chance is his aesthetic foundation. Some of my favorites are the ones that suggest a blackboard with children's scribblings in white chalk.

I don't recall where or when I first started seeing Twombly's images. It took a long time for him to soak in with me. It was that lightness, the childlike spontaneity I had a tough time with at first. The almost zen-like simplicity of his works gives the illusion that they just happened. They appear not even to be aware of such art principles as composition. It's like every one of them was made by a child. Twombly uses aesthetic considerations subtly, extensively, giving the appearance of no aesthetic knowledge or appreciation. They are pre-school when it comes to what they are doing. They are totally visual with the appearance of no knowledge behind them, art about as pure as art gets. It impresses me that he is able to put down something consciously in the style of unconscious scrawling. 

Twombly's paintings appear to be of no more artistic value than doodling on scrap paper. They appear free of thought. They're raw and from before the time when we start drawing stick figures, in the time at 2 or 3 years when the child is unable to bring what all it sees into something to put on paper with colors. He's going back to the origins of art, to a child's first experiences with colors and paper, back to da-da. He was from Lexington, Virginia, and went to the art school at Black Mountain down around Asheville.  

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