- Twombly Thyrsis triptych at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin
This week's episode of the Dead Hare Radio Hour is devoted to the life and work of Cy Twombly. Twombly died last week at the age of 83.
An hour is barely enough to scratch the surface of the topic of Twombly and his work, but
Our guests this week are David A Ross, Chair of the MFA Art Practice at SVA, journalist and critic Tyler Green and the filmmaker John Waters, who share their impressions on the artist's work and his significance.
Note: these show notes are not quite completed...more links coming shortly.
Chris reads two poems by Charles Olson, both dated 1951 and both titled "Cy Twombly."
Steven Read and Google Voice conspire to make new sound art.
Jerry Saltz' s remembrance of Twombly.
David Ross's Interview:
The major Twombly painting, Untitled, 1971, acquired by SFMOMA while David Ross was serving as director of the museum.
Tyler Green's interview:
His blog: Modern Art Notes
His 3rd of May Tumblr blog.
The Hetero-normalizing discussion: Of Twombly, of Rauschenberg. Philip Kennicot's Wall St Journal essay on the institutional art establishment problematic response to homosexuality in contemporary art.
John Waters' Interview:
His 2010 memoir, Role Models. The chapter called Roommates details the artists he lives with....through their artwork in his house(s)
- Five Greek Poets and a Philosopher, 1978 A portfolio of seven color lithographs with embossing, in the box. via susansheehangallery.com
A suite of prints like those in John Water's dining room.
We also hear personal reflections on the artist from a range of folks:
my daughter rachel and i have been going to cy twombly shows for about ten years. we've caught one every two years or so since rachel was 14 and i was 54. she and i are both artists. we both have loved looking at the work of cy twombly together. the last show we went to was of his sculpture. we've seen the boats and we've seen the sunflowers. we will keep going to his shows together even though he is gone. it's a tradition .
right now, i'm at the beach and when i heard cy was gone, i thought of him on my walk and this is what i wrote:
bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits and bits of seaweed left by the last incoming tide ...................... cy twombly
My first encounter with Twombly's work was at an art warehouse in the late 80's where I had to condition report about 6 or 7 works on paper. They were about 22" X 30" under glass. My initial reaction was "really - are you kidding?". Some scribbles of pencil and house paint. But as I went through the drawings I became intrigued and began to follow his career.
I was a big fan of Basquiat, who was everywhere back then and through Basquiat's work I was informed about Twombly. By the time of Twombly's retrospective at MOMA in '94 he had become the artist who was the most influential in my development.
Twombly persevered with his own vision through rejection and being ignored to become one of the most important artists of our time.
Cy Twombly's paintings of the late 60s and early 70s (the work that touches me most) occupy, for me, the ideal space between raw emotional and/or spiritual output and images of a more intellectualized/serial order and arrangement. These images always seemed to ride fearlessly close to a boundary that, if crossed, designated any image as "all over" or non-compositional. A palpable and pleasurable tension hangs in the air by playing with this boundary, oftentimes literally the bounded edges of the canvas. He also made me aware of the visual power of "gesture," a power that resides in the sense of movement, sometimes violent, quick and chaotic, in other cases, cool, flowing and concise. He's a true draftsman. As a painter myself, I learned so much from these paintings about the total freedom that paint can offer. The narrative that's on display that discloses his decision-making process, marks made and marks covered. And maybe most exciting, that new blurred boundary between painting and drawing.
This last point I think spans his entire artistic career. The magnificent explosions of color, smeared, stirred, and raked across the large canvases.
Cy Twombly was a big early influence on me, along with Robert Ryman and Kasimir Malevich. I guess what they all have in common is the restrained pallet (at least Malevich's seminal works, all of Ryman's, and most of Twombly's - until his Four Seasons paintings, or there abouts), and something off-kilter and arch.
I love that Twombly drew in the dark to perfect his technique. Before I knew this, I drew with my left hand (obvious), or stood on one leg on a cinderblock when I drew (slightly less obvious), or yelled primordial guttural sounds while flailing spastically, Ian Curtis-style, to get that perfectly imperfect gestural line. I could have just closed my eyes and saved myself the trouble.
I was a pencil scribbler for most of the '80s, and then a belt-sanding scribbler well into the '90s, all in large part because of Twombly's influence. At some point I realized the gesture had to be pure chance - the found object on which I painted, rather than my own attempt at an abstract-expressionist mark - so I gave it up in favor of a hard-edged shape.
But I'm glad Twombly never gave up the handmade gesture, even though he got more and more into muscular paint and color as the years went by. Those earlier pencil-scribbled, automatic hieroglyphic pieces of his are still the strongest, for me. I love the way they straddle abstraction and representation (or communication), in much the same way Philip Guston did, but in a skittering, tentative way, like a spider making its web in the dark, while standing on one leg.
I'm mostly indifferent to Cy Twombly's death...which is to say, I don't think I'll miss not seeing new work. I respected his work, but never found it too engaging or questioning. I never dismissed it, but never thought too much about it after seeing it. I'm sorry, I don't have anything to say about the work.
This is a story about a trip I took to Houston in the mid-nineties. I went down to Texas to visit family, but the highlight of the trip was the day I stole the rental car to visit the Rothko Chapel and the Cy Twombly Gallery.
I went to the Rothko Chapel first, but it was a rainy day and I could barely see the mostly-black paintings in the dark, gloomy space. In one dim corner a church group prayed, and for the first time it dawned on me, naïve art history student that I was, that “the Rothko Chapel” is actually achurch – not just a place to worship, well, Rothko.
Around the corner, the Cy Twombly Gallery is housed in a Renzo Piano-designed building. Through the clever use of skylights and a steel roof grid, the light was bright, even on that rainy day. I don’t remember where each painting was specifically hung, but the overall feeling was one of elated illumination, in stark contrast to the oppressive darkness of the Rothko Chapel. I’d never seen such a comprehensive assembly of Twombly’s work, and I remember being transfixed by the fluid painterliness, the delicate color, the vast expanses of thick paint inscribed and overpainted with lines, text, and smeared shapes. The honest expressiveness of his markmaking, the giddy materiality of his approach and disposition, the monumental size of his canvases – these crowning features of Twombly’s work moved me.
On the way back to the East Coast, I thumbed through the catalogue and thought about Twombly’s incredible paintings. Visiting the gallery had been a more spiritual experience for me than any traditional religious occasion in my life. I’ve never been back to Houston, but what a great, indelible memory.
V<o>brainsee walks us out with the sound piece Memory.
Funeral services for Cy Twombly were held on July 7th in Rome.
Direct download: show_17_podcast.mp3
-- posted at: 12:00am EST