July 17, 2008

Cy Twombly's juggling act

In the NY Sun David Cohen writes that the Cy Twombly retrospective at Tate Modern is a reminder that no matter how intellectually ambitious, above all else, painting is smearing and drawing is scribble. "In room after room, this survey offers spare yet dynamic canvases, or cruddy yet evocative sculpture. However nonchalant his painterly marks may seem, they are taut and expressive nonetheless. Scatological as they can be in their oozing and dribbling, his paintings are unfailingly elegant. There is a dichotomy in Mr. Twombly's work between the verbal and the nonverbal: Writing is key to his work — often there is text scribbled into his canvases, and titles manifest connections with poetry — but equally vital is a sense that splodges and gestures form an arcane system of pre-verbal expression. This juggling act, sustained over half a century, is essential to Mr. Twombly's achievement. But it also accounts for his rocky ride in terms of esteem. Because he taps reserves of brutalism and classicism in equal measure, he is apt to appear too effete to one camp, too grubby to the other. The combination of rough textures and smooth literary references may well account for his greater success in Europe than in America." Read more.


"Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons," organized by Nicholas Serota and Nicholas Cullinan. Tate ­Modern, London. Through September 14.

Relates post:
Studio visit with Cy Twombly

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