… half-faded traces; words, shadows, scrawls, what is it?
The most curious and the worst exhibition of paintings I ever saw in Chicago is hanging in the handsome new Seven Stairs Gallery at 670 N. Michigan Ave.
The paintings are the work of Cy Twombly of Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
All the big canvases in the show look alike — hideous, figure-like shapes in black, slightly relieved by browns and tans here and there. Each painting looks like a black bearskin rug tossed onto a white carpet.
The paintings are revolting — nothing else describes them. They are strong in the sense that they repel, as a rattlesnake in the hot sand. It is truly shocking to confront them.
Yet this work cannot be passed off as mere junk.
This following bit is from Frank O’Hara in 1955:
… A bird seems to have passed through the impasto with cream-colored screams and bitter claw-marks.
The next is from ‘Galleria del Cavallino, Venice’ by Palma Bucarelli (1958):
On the remote trail of a memory that seeks at the back of the mind, at the limits of consciousness, vague feelings imprinted, in time, who knows when, in the sediment of sensations, the sign sharpens, stiffens, passes hesitantly, reaches the edge, continues beyond in invisible space the fleeting conversation.
[line break added] On the old whitewash of the wall, innocent blackboard, echoes of lost voices surface, frail traces of lived life, gone who knows where; signs traced by unknown, negligent hands, gleaned by the white page, voices of crowds long gone, forgotten memories. Humble, anonymous, shapeless material our everyday life; a wall with a few scratches; half-faded traces; words, shadows, scrawls, what is it?
… strayed desires, broken words, tender, mocking, loving words, the unconscious mirage of coming to a halt, despair at passing on; poor, tenuous signs count for nothing; you can lay on a coat of whitewash, the voices fade now truly dead, the surface is white, everything is ready to begin again.
My previous post from this book is here.