… they have the look of fragile things that have come through.
This is from ‘The World Is Light’ by David Sylvester (1997) found in Writings on Cy Twombly edited by Nicola Del Roscio (2002):
Light clings to great sculpture rather as the fog in Prufrock curls about the house. Not quite like that. The house is passive and the fog allowed to move in and take possession. Sculpture is active. Sculpture breathes light.
… Actually, [Twombly’s] paintings, too, often induce the sensation that they are breathing light — an experience less common in looking at painting than at sculpture.
Cy Twombly, Cycnus, 1978
… The view revealed in the paintings (and drawings) has been marvelously evoked by Robert Rosenblum, and his words are worth reprinting at length: “The elbow and shoulder movements of de Kooning and Pollock are replaced by a gentler calligraphy of wrist and finger. The raucous, colliding tracks of movement give way to a more muted, whispered ambience, as if we were experiencing through many veils of memory the record of some earlier actions and thoughts that had gradually been effaced both by long exposure and by later overlays of graffiti.
[line break added] Indeed, though the works of Pollock and de Kooning tend to speak in the present tense of an immediacy of visual and emotional outpourings, Twombly’s canvas already speaks in a kind of layered past tense, in which we recognise long-ago beginnings and erasures, near-invisible strata that lie below the surface like ghost memories of earlier impulses.”
Rosenblum proceeds to relate this atmosphere to the artist’s “sensibility to that derelict but pulse-quickening urban environment which also nurtured Rauschenberg so richly in the 1950s, a microcosm of infinite density where every city wall and public sign might be defaced by layer after layer of random scribbles. … And here, within this Lascaux of the twentieth century, tantalising suggestions of letters and words surface and disappear, illegible brambles that leave traces of lost or as yet unformed inscriptions.
” … Among the other triumphs of Twombly’s sensibility is the sense of seizing an organic world of change and progress at once rapid, attuned to the pursuit of a private impulse, and of long duration, attuned to what feels like decades and centuries of public historical layering, comparable to an archaeological sites of multiple strata.”
The sculptures are quite literally like objects from archaeological sites, in form and in character. They carry the scars of growth and decay, of wear and tear, they have the look of fragile things that have come through. And they have the look too of the residue not off an individual life but of a culture.
[line break added] Even more than the paintings — because those do so more through scrawled names than formal attributes — the sculptures fulfill Twombly’s passion for seeing the persistence of the past into the present, a passion that is evident in his conversation whenever some place somewhere is mentioned and he at once starts talking about the more dramatic or bizarre moments of its history. The sculptures have the scent of antiquity — often of Asian antiquity — in ways that the paintings can’t.
Cy Twombly, Aurora, 1981
My most recent previous post from this book is here.