Magazine article Artforum International

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Magazine article Artforum International

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Article excerpt

The eminence granted Cy Twombly by our era's leading art critic, the auction market, bothers me. I tend to accept the market's long-term judgment as the mos sensible gauge we have--allowing for a sanity lag of twenty or so years--of art's relative values in and for the wider culture. Say what you want about money; it is sincere. But watching the wild run-up in the '80s, and comparative buoyancy since then, of price for the Other Guy from Black Mountain has given m a tic of alienation.

I will not be unhappy if Twombly's MoMA show squares my taste with that of the collectors who, checkbooks aloft, seem to be voting him the boss abstract painter after the New York School. But I rather expect the darker satisfaction of confirming for myself the triumph of a reactionary Impulse among art's major consumers. Twombly's case Is a far closer call than last year's disheartening Lucian Freud boom, though a related soul-sickness may be afoot.

Twombly as an artist is plenty soulful and incredibly seductive. Also serious. He is no Richard Diebenkorn confecting middlebrow desserts from modern art's kitchen scraps. He projects a splendid irritability. His work is as much a form of behavior as a product of craft. It is restless, with the discontent of a dog that turns and turns, unable to feel just right about the place it has chosen t lie down. The main place Twombly has chosen since the '50s is the New York School big painting, in its definitive combination of matter-of-fact touch and cosmic field.

This site defines Twombly as a poet of belatedness. Brilliantly, he makes it a medium for fugitive traces of other lostnesses: Mediterranean aches, Roman poetries. There is wonderful tension between vatic reference and vernacular mark, the ineffable and the crude. Twombly conveys a peculiar state--reminiscen of the poems of C. P. Cavafy--of possessing in mind and heart a territory that his body cannot share, because the body cannot Inhabit memory. His body's gestures toward that zone--itchy, stammering, tender scrawls--deliciously hurt. Meanwhile, he checks a tendency to the precious with bold and practical experiments in picture-making form.

Twombly's lingering grace note to the silenced symphony of Abstract Expressionism has had a good Influence. …

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