Thursday, July 7, 2011

THE DREAMER HAS AWAKENED: Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

One of the last great men of 20th century American painting died on July 5th in a hospital in his adopted country of Italy at the age of 83.  He,  along with such luminaries as Jasper Johns,  Robert Rausenberg,  Willem DeKooning,  and Mark Rothko helped to elevate American painting to a status usually reserved for European art.  Strangely enough,  this Virginia native chose to move from NYC to Rome in 1957 and never looked back.  I myself have wandered the area of Piazza Barberini in hopes of bumping into him as he navigated Via Monserrato on his way to shop in Campo de' Fiori.  I even went as far as visiting Gaeta,  the town south of Rome where he had a summer studio.  I must say that this or any form of artistic hero-worship was something that Mr Twombly avoided like the plague,  which is quickly discerned from his limited availability to the art press and his relative anonymity on the streets of Rome.   It was his love of Classical art and literature that made the Eternal City more than a home for him.  The lyrical beauty and poetry seen in his touch is was made his paintings so special,  a hybrid of drawing,  painting,  and regret that made his art-making process both deeply human and intimately personal.  His erasures,  smudges,  scrawled lines,  and gestural markings formed a grand view of his "pentimenti" or penances. He spoke that "each line was an experience",  not an illustration of something else.  He called line "a sensation of its own realization".  That his last major commission was the ceiling of the Lourve's Salle des Bronzes seems entirely appropriate for a modern artist of his stature and sensibility.  Ironically,  the work is highly geometric and incorporates the clearly painted names (in Greek) of great Hellenic sculptors into its composition.  It now seems that Mr Twombly was a classicist after all.

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