07 Jul

Twombly at SVA

School of Visual Arts Collection, Exhibition 191: Work from Cy Twombly: Paintings, March 8-30, 1977 at the Visual Arts Museum.

Cy Twombly was the subject of two solo exhibitions at SVA, in 1973 and 1977, just before his idiosyncratic work found new favor with the rising generation of neo-Expressionists. The 1977 exhibition, Cy Twombly: Paintings, which was curated by Susan Ginsburg, appeared at a particularly momentous time, and included paintings on both canvas and paper, dating from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. The press release seems to seek to re-introduce Twombly to the public, and distinguishes his paintings from his drawings (which were the subject of the 1973 exhibition):

Cy Twombly has been an active painter since the mid-1950s; however, his work is not often exhibited in one-man shows in New York City. His oeuvre is relatively small, especially paintings.

Although the kinds of images represented are varied, Twombly’s style has been very consistent. His use of line evokes Surrealist automatic writing – for the line is spontaneous, defining forms that are imprecise. The forms often look like childlike scribbling on a blackboard surface, yet there is an overriding rationality to the work. This can be seen in Twombly’s use of mathematical equations, numbers and words that tie the abstract forms to yet another abstraction.

Twombly’s use of both canvas and paper is interesting. The paintings on canvas are always large whereas those on paper are what one would consider drawing size; yet these works are very different from what he calls drawings. What is most important about the paintings is the surface. Twombly’s approach to surface is defined by the marks on it. Different surface textures evoke the varied effects of the paint, a meditation on the nature of painting.

Twombly’s works notoriously do not reproduce well, but the images below begin to hint at the complexity that must have been revealed to the gallery visitors. Lenders to the exhibition included Robert Rauschenberg, Francois deMenil, and one Diane Keaton.

School of Visual Arts Collection, Exhibition 191: Announcement for Cy Twombly: Paintings, March 8-30, 1977 at the Visual Arts Museum.

School of Visual Arts Collection, Exhibition 191: Work from Cy Twombly: Paintings, March 8-30, 1977 at the Visual Arts Museum.

School of Visual Arts Collection, Exhibition 191: Work from Cy Twombly: Paintings, March 8-30, 1977 at the Visual Arts Museum.

School of Visual Arts Collection, Exhibition 191: Installation shot from Cy Twombly: Paintings, March 8-30, 1977 at the Visual Arts Museum.

School of Visual Arts Collection, Exhibition 191: Installation shot from Cy Twombly: Paintings, March 8-30, 1977 at the Visual Arts Museum.

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07 July 2011
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SVA
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