Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cy Twombly

I’ve never been a fan of Cy Twombly, an artist who almost dares you to like his work. Some of his paintings are not unlike the bored scribbles of a manager trapped in a very dull meeting. I mean, except for the scale and the media, there is no difference. I just couldn’t see this as meaningful expression—I couldn’t see the intelligence behind it.
So I avoided the Menil’s Twombly gallery for years until today. And I was surprised. While there were plenty of perplexing scribble paintings, there were some that had real presence.
One was an untitled suite of nine paintings, mostly green, black, grey and white. He would tend to put the green and black in one area and the grey and white beneath it and to the side. The effect was an illusionistic effect (unintentional?) of dense greenery coming right up to the edge of a lake on an overcast day. I was filled with emotion seeing this. There had been a piece on Monet’s letters in NPR the other day, which made me think about Monet, which made me think about Giverny and the water lily paintings. One thing about these paintings was how rich in color they were. Twombly creates something similar with a far more limited palette.
Then I thought of Theft by Peter Carey. Carey has Butcher Bones describe his new paintings as abstract with slabs of super-rich pthalo green, and seeing these Twombly paintings made that image return. It’s as if Carey had seen them and used their memory to create Bones’ paintings.
I wish I could find an image of one of these paintings to post. I can't though--you'll just have to visit the gallery.