… candor is still such a ruthless reality on the other side of despair …
“What whiteness can one add to that whiteness, what candor?” Mencius, as translated by Pound
Sculpture fled. And architecture has now run after. And for good reasons: that the round world (which it was their job to lead us to enjoy — to illuminate) — turned to rot. It had been treated cheap, not by these arts but by what makes art: men.
All golden things, including the mean, got debased. Then everything blew up, from the inside, from cause.
It is even possible that one has to include line as having suffered, and color. But this will not be so easily apparent, and the point of it can wait.
… Take it flatly, a plane. On it, how can a man throw his shadow, make this the illumination of his experience, how put his weight exactly — there? (In my business it comes out how, by alphabetic letters, such signs and their syllables, how to make them not sounds but my sounds, my — what are not any more sounds than is a painter’s objects or a dancer’s movements — my “voice”; to say what I got to say, which may be of interest to others because it can stand for what they have got to say, if it says anything; and it can only to the degree that, like a plane, it is not plane at all.) How [to] make that plane, the two dimensions, be all — from a point to any dimension?
… I know sculpture was buried, was become the art underneath us all, had gone down to be our sign — by a sort of inverted archeology — that each of us had now to come up live, like those stone images scholars are digging up in so many places; that only by ourselves can we find out — by no outside medium or means whatsoever — the round all men have been rifled off.
… I was taking exception to this particular painting. I thought that here Twombly had been tempted, that he had slipped off the wire any of us in all of the arts walk over space on these days, that he had gone into the whiteness as that other mad [man] had — as an American stands especially in danger of, candor is still such a ruthless reality on the other side of despair, or still seems ruthless in the face of humanism and confronted by the will of that reality with which artists can have nothing to do, the will despair breeds and which is, god save us, the will by which most of our fellow men manage to get through. An artist has to cross over.
I knew what Twombly was fighting for, even in this canvas. It is what he is always trying to get down, what he so often does to succeed in getting in to what he is confronted by — into that rectangle — that honor & elegance are here once more present in the act of paint.