Cy Twombly

The elements of the code come from three distinct experiential fields: the elemental (earth and clouds), the somatic (flesh and blood) and the subjective (mirror). And they can be mapped on to three corresponding traditional genres of oil painting, respectively: landscape, figure and self-portraiture. In Untitled we see Twombly’s invocation of myth and poetry, his wavering between high and low and his sustained dwelling on the threshold where writing becomes drawing or painting. Perhaps most importantly, we see in this painting how marks and words – in collaboration and counter-distinction – construct meaning differently.

“Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate – it is the sensation of its own realisation.”

Although at first glance the graffiti-like scribbles and scratches of Cy Twombly’s work might resemble art made by a naughty child of Jackson Pollock, it is nothing of the kind: it is the work of an erudite, sophisticated, and emotional painter. Whereas the work of Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists emerged in 1940s New York, where their existential inner dramas were enacted against the acutely felt backdrop of World War II, Twombly’s work was part of the next generation, emerging during the 1950s in Europe – a Europe that was trying to forget and rebuild. Twombly, based for the most part in Rome, thus focused on his immediate surroundings, responding to the history and beauty he found there, combining aspects of both traditional European sources and the new American painting.

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