TIO LaLa Land: Cy Twombly at Getty Center (through 10/30)!

TIO LaLa Land: Cy Twombly at Getty Center (through 10/30)!

Graffiti refers to the act of writing, drawing or painting text or images on surfaces like, but not limited to, walls. Artists who practice this form usually do so under a pseudonym – except  for the iconic Cy Twombly.

A highly informative, thoroughly engaging overview of Twombly’s work is now on display at the Getty Center. “Making the Past Present” is up through October 30.

“This exhibition explores Twombly’s lifelong fascination with the ancient Mediterranean world through evocative groupings of his paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture made from the mid-20th to the early 21st century, tracing an imaginative journey of encounters with and responses to ancient texts and artifacts. The presentation includes Greek and Roman antiquities from the artist’s personal collection, on public display for the first time,” explains the museum.

Cy Twombly was notable for not giving a damn if he was notable. On the subject of fame and artistic fortune, he once told the New York Times:

“It’s something I don’t think about. If it happens, it happens, but don’t bother me with it. I couldn’t care less.”

In fact the artist’s spare splotches, swirls, scribbles and scratches (plus his profound poetic engagement) put him out of step with the post WWII art movement, when the center of the art world shifted from Paris to New York. Yet, despite marching to his own drum and moving away from (while building on) the isms du jour, despite his stated indifference to conventional success, Twombly still managed to become one of the most important mark-makers of that fertile era when 20th-century abstraction dominated.

On the occasion of a 1994 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, curator Kirk Varnedoe wrote:

“…(his work) was influential among artists, discomfiting to many critics and truculently difficult not just for a broad public, but for sophisticated initiates of postwar art as well.”

Legendary art critic Robert Hughes described Twombly as “the Third Man, a shadowy figure, beside that vivid duumvirate of his friends Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.”

Rauschenberg was a close friend , travel companion and influence, as were AbEx supernovas Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell. Collectively they helped to shift Twombly’s aesthetic away from figurative toward abstraction.

As of the late -1950s, living  for the most part  in Rome, Twombly  took inspiration from his immediate surroundings. His work became a response to the history of the Greco-Roman past, to the poetry of Sappho, Catullus, Rumi, Pound and Rilke, to myths and legends, and to the cultural splendors he found in his immediate surroundings. And, by combining in his work aspects of traditional European sources and new American painting, Twombly managed to layer time and history, drawing and painting. And, through his line-based compositions with their biomorphic forms, Twombly was also able to suggest subtle narratives that lay beneath the surface – including allusions to current events like the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War.

“In spite of his persistent disregard for fame and recognition, Cy Twombly, along with Robert Rauschenburg and Jasper Johns, is considered to be one of the greatest American painters after Abstract Expressionism. His distinctive aesthetic was both a continuation of Abstract Expressionist techniques in a post-war and European setting that internationalized contemporary art, and a new direction that used  ‘low’ art practices such as penciled words and scribbled crayon in the context of  ‘high’ art and art history. Twombly’s artistic enterprise and its significance is rife with such contradictions: his work (along with that of Agnes Martin and Frank Stella) was part of one of the first exhibitions to explore the ideas of Minimalism and, on the other hand, the expressivity of his work that grew out of Abstract Expressionist roots influenced the more recent group of Neo-Expressionist painters,” sums up one online source.

No your kids cannot do this.


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