Noble Rot: Richard Cork Revels in the Riotous Abundance of Cy Twombly

By Cork, Richard | New Statesman (1996), May 10, 2004 | Go to article overview

Noble Rot: Richard Cork Revels in the Riotous Abundance of Cy Twombly


Cork, Richard, New Statesman (1996)


Springtime at the Serpentine is an ideal moment for a Cy Twombly show. Inside, the works on paper from the past half-century of Twombly's long career explode in a riot of organic richness, as if the septuagenarian artist were determined to outdo the blossoming beyond the windows.

Twombly's father was a professional baseball player, and from the outset, this show seems powered by a restless, fast-moving agility. But the earliest works, produced just after a trip to Europe and North Africa with Robert Rauschenberg, are monochrome. Two untitled monotypes in paint, both dating from 1953, are reminiscent of white marks scratched on grubby black walls. Like Klee and the surrealists, Twombly was fascinated by the impromptu eloquence of graffiti. He seems already to rejoice in the liberating zest of unruly mark-making. Are these figures, or fissures? Is Twombly alluding to acts of violence, erotic encounters, or an uneasy blend of aggression and intimacy?

His exploration of colour could not be delayed for long. Twombly had, after all, studied under abstract expressionist artists at the legendary Black Mountain College, and by 1954 he was ready to unleash a far more fiery vision. Wielding colour pencils and crayon now, he fills most of the picture surface with a feverish, almost incandescent commotion. Scarlet, orange and brilliant yellow lines undulate and gather into spirals before breaking up into hectic bursts of scribble, evoking storms and forest fires raging out of control.

Even when he reverts to pencil in 1956, the absence of colour does not lessen the overwhelming turbulence. All the lines appear to be caught up in an apocalyptic frenzy. And the following year, this mood culminates in two larger images where house paint is used to submerge all the pencil marks in a deluge, suggesting that fire has now given way to flood.

As 1957 was also the moment when Twombly decided to leave his native America to settle in Rome, these images may reflect a sense of inner crisis. A two-year gap ensues at this point: perhaps Twombly needed time to assimilate his new surroundings and decide how Italy would influence his work.

By 1959, collage and glue are used to build up a free-floating cluster of fragments. They could be torn pieces of paper blown away in the wind. Or they might just as plausibly evoke the shattered ruins of a civilisation long since reduced to rubblealone. Either way, they suggest that Twombly is now in a mood to begin reassembling a world of imagined forms after the obliteration of 1957. Over the next decade, his mischievous and often erotic sense of play returns. References to body parts abound in works where free association seems to prevail. A whole series of pencil images called Bolsena teems with numbers, either suspended in isolation or attached to rectangles suggestive of building blocks or blank canvases.

For a while, between 1969 and 1971, Twombly reverts to turbulence in black and white. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Noble Rot: Richard Cork Revels in the Riotous Abundance of Cy Twombly
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.