On Modern American Art: Selected Essays

By Robert Rosenblum | Go to book overview

CY TWOMBLY 1984

The earliest Twombly in the Saatchi Collection transports us swiftly to the New York City of 1956, the place and the time that this untitled canvas was painted and scrawled upon. As the work of a twenty-eight-year-old, trying to find his identity in a territory occupied by the heavyweight authority of the likes of de Kooning and Pollock, it is a triumph. Bowing respectfully to these ancestral figures, it nevertheless speaks with its own voice. To be sure, the flavor of the New York School is everywhere apparent: the veneration of ragged, graphic impulse; the staking out of a field of teeming, perpetual motion, where traditional structures of major and minor, central and peripheral are challenged; and the reduction, as in so many works of de Kooning, Pollock, Kline, and Motherwell, to a language of black and white. Yet we immediately sense not discipleship, but a uniquely personal flavor. 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

83. Cy Twombly, Untitled [ Lexington, Virginia], 1956

-141-

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