Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly: the doodle that everyone knows how to do!..maybe not!


Every time you start approaching contemporary art, you come to terms with the sensations of your own artistic taste and you probe the reflection of what you consider beautiful.

It is necessary to make an operation of detachment from reality, from the comparison with the things that seem more obvious to us in nature, in order to find a point of arrival in what art has intrinsically, namely the poetics of those who act to give us their work.

There are those who affirm that once upon a time with classical art it was more difficult to make art but it was easier to understand it, today instead it is easier to make it but more difficult to understand it.

This last consideration therefore leads us straight to the external aesthetic conception, to the consideration of models, of norms, of balances, of paradigms for knowledge and consciousness.

The mere fact that art has developed in itself the acceptance of ugliness leads us to the conclusion that beauty must be retraced on several languages, on several mimetic fronts, not only those related to the relationship between man and nature and to the expression of form as a synthesis of extrinsic and objective perfection.

In fact, with contemporary art, a world develops that is directly proportional to what has been the commercial development, the speculation of the system, of the merchants, of the new collectors of the 20th century, and this has also influenced the criticism, the interpretations, the intellectual environment that is the promoter of art in a historical and cultural sense.

Cy Twombly ultimately had more consideration for the history of art after his success in sales than in that of his first public appearances.

With this artist, the comparison falls on the non-visible lunar side of art, directed towards the poetics of the gesture, of the sign, proper to the abstract conceptual of authors such as Kline, Rothko, Hartung, or to that “dump” object and material of the Arte Povera of Kounellis, Merz, Pistoletto, Icaro.

                                                                Bacchus series – 2003/2008

A contemporary that certainly proposes a reality in which and from which to find a way and a language intensely psychological and cerebral so as to be emotionally transported into one of the many dimensions of the imagination.

A satisfactory reading that leads to a clear answer to the question “but is this art?” or to a certain reflection “even a child could do it” implies a wide range of interpretations in which the final effect always remains that of the work as a testimony of an act that has become history, of a sign, perhaps minimal but representative of a glimmer of humanity.

If Cy Twombly had not been in the museums in that form, art would probably have become someone else’s axiom, maybe yes or maybe no, the expressive simplicity would have found something else to become universal. This is what art does, it leaves an immortal imprint, and whether it is beautiful or not, it triggers a critical dimension, a choice, and therefore a response to consciousness.

In our American artist we find the approximation of the gesture and the naive graphism as an intentional and enriched writing in its banality, the richness is precisely in a search for simplicity or rather the signifier of simplicity, a poetic attitude that is far from what a child expresses, because the latter expresses itself in its own spontaneity, Cy Twombly does not.

From the historical avant-gardes onwards, the ugly in art has found its own legitimacy, or the importance that Duchamp has given to thought as an artistic expression, shunning the form, are considerations that bring the user of other people’s poetics to consider that the artist’s license is not an ethereal element, but always carries within itself a path, a memory, a construct that is the guarantee of who, with his own inspiration, leaves a message.

                                                                            Volubilis – 1953 –

Cy Twombly’s doodles fall within a context of comparison with those of Dubuffet, therefore within a mere historiographic treatment of art, within an analysis for an aesthetic evaluation and for a strongly cultural and intellectual feedback.

The scribbles made by the child remain exactly in one dimension for what they are, not for what those made by the artist’s awareness intrinsically refer to in their ontological construct.

Cy Twombly’s graphism can be interpreted by reflecting on what psychology tells us about that submerged and almost unfathomable world in our minds.

The theme of automatic creative processes in modern art has its points of reference ranging from the Surrealists to Pollock who give us coordinates now known to approach to consider the infinite ways of expression, to enter into the fullness of a work.

Cy Twombly’s lyricism gives us back a linguistic dimension of great poetic depth which touches the chords of thought with more serene and gentle assonances than the propositions of gesture or action aimed at freeing art from a space/time dimension defined by customs and aesthetic canons.

His art opens us to a wide-ranging aspect on supports of large dimensions of his own works where the light of white constitutes a breeding ground in which the signs are a vital and iridescent element.

He has been defined the “master of white” and in fact the artist himself declared: “Whiteness can be a classical state of the intellect or a neo-romantic area of remembrance, as in the symbolic whiteness of Mallarmè”.

                                                                         Untitled – 1954 –

Not only an approach with the symbolism of a poet who leaves to dreams and interpretation the deep meaning of his verses that give suggestions to the soul to be explored, but also the connection with the silence of his great friend, composer John Cage.

Cy Towmbly was a fine intellectual of the creative process manifested now in a romantic vision of a lost youth now in a gracefulness of spiritual resonances now in a vague mythos of classical memory.

From this artist, therefore, one must learn not how to make art or how to use a technique, but how to pause and meditate in order to escape from the sense of banality, how to overcome either the useless frustration of the continuity of existence or from observing the terms of everyday life according to given sequences, to see that the relationship between simplicity and complexity is sometimes indecipherable or rather brings about their contiguity.

In the contemporary world a Cy Towmbly’s doodle is not a doodle, it is a signal more than a sign, it is a symbolic warning to find in the banality of the soul a poetic whisper, the truth of a lightness that is still vital.

The signs that this artist has left us give the viewer a feeling whereby the emotional charge slowly becomes a hypnotic experience, with his gesture that becomes psychic, we find ourselves walking along a path where each element refers to a suggestion that can be memory, peace, doubt, energy, lightness, a perception that triggers our imagination, supports the being and the not being, our vitality, I dare say our poetic matrix. We have a volatile contemporaneity made of a heterogeneous flux, a liquid society as Bauman stated, where rediscovering childhood and gracefulness could still give us a reason to shake our history.

                                                                          Lepanto I – 2001 –

Cy Twombly was born in 1928, in Lexington (Virginia). He was registered as Edwin Parker, the nickname Cy inherited from his father, a professional baseball player who was given the nickname in honor of a famous player of the sport, Cyclone Young. Cy attended courses and art schools in Boston, New York, but also Lexington and Richmond, accepting various influences, studying and copying. He found himself in contact with the avant-garde at the center of the American artistic universe, Rauschenberg was the friend he followed on a trip to Europe and Africa in 1952. In 1959 he moved to Rome permanently after marrying Tatiana Franchetti. In Italy he found what America did not have, the historical stratification as a collective identification of a cultural heritage that becomes perception, custom, behavior as a universal symbol.

There is a change and a reinterpretation of the past that is expressed in a cultural conjunction between signifier and signified, in abstraction a dialogue that leads to the root of beauty. The scribbles are joined by the written words of myth that bring to the surface what does not make the work autonomous to itself, many things are more familiar. Graffiti, lines, tangles evoke an emblematic form to the collective consciousness. The artist through the technique brings to the viewer a series of material levels that involve him precisely to meditate, to dig into the thought, the connections, the vectors that lead to the meaning of each component of the work. A metaphor of the relationships that occur between the personality, mind and pathos, and the world at the roots that relate objects in consciousness.

                                                                    Athens School – 1964 –

He loved history, the classical world, and in fact born works bearing names such as Venus or Leda, painted “School of Athens” in 1961. It was Palma Bucarelli, historical director of the Valle Giulia Museum, who presented him with his first European solo exhibition at the gallery La Tartaruga of Plinio de Martiis. The artists of the Scuola di Piazza del Popolo, Mario Schifano, Tano Festa, Franco Angeli, but also Mimmo Rotella, Jannis Kounellis, Pino Pascali, Renato Mambor, all met at the gallery La Tartaruga of Plinio de Martiis, which in those same years hosted the works of Kline, Rothko, De Kooning and Rauschenberg, Afro, Consagra and Capogrossi. And it was in this gallery that gallery owners Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend arrived from the USA in search of new artistic talent.

Between the end of the ’60s and the beginning of the ’70s he creates the “blackboard paintings”, written on a dark surface that resembles a blackboard.

                                                                            Untitled – 1968 –

These paintings bring him back into the American orthodoxy, into the aesthetics of abstraction that the stars and stripes critics preferred. He was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 1964, in 1989 and in 2001 when he was awarded the Golden Lion at the 49th Venice Biennale. In 1968, some of his chalkboard paintings were featured in the first retrospective at the Milwaukee Art Center and were received with enthusiasm compared to those in Europe.

He was also a sculptor and his three-dimensional works he painted them white stating that white paint was his marble.

Twombly had retrospectives of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1979 and the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1994, and the Cy Twombly Gallery opened at the Menil Collection in Houston in 1995. In 1996 Twombly received a Praemium Imperiale award , given by the Japan Art Association to “artists who have made significant contributions to the development of international arts and culture.” On display at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich in 2006, the Tate Modern in London in 2008, and the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. In 2010, he was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government. During the fall of 2010 Tacita Dean produced a film about Twombly, entitled Edwin Parker. In 2011, on July 5, he passed away in Rome after a long illness. In 2016, the first major retrospective after his death was organized at the Musée national d’art moderne at the Centre Pompidou bringing together 140 works, some previously unpublished.

For the first time the three great cycles, “Nine discourses on Commodus” (1963), “Fifty days at Iliam” (1977-78), on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and never exhibited before in Europe, and “The Coronation of Sesostris” (2000), from the Pinault collection, are exhibited together.

Cy Towmbly gives us back the gentle vitality of the dream, the playfulness of soul and body, the lightness of doubt to bring us into an afflatus in which to find truth and memory, vital momentum.










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