As the Art World mourns the late uber-painter Cy Twombly, plenty of
non-artsy folks say, “but the guy just made scribbles"* [ web-pic ] or “b.f.d. –it looks like a first-grader painted it!” Why then are the creative-types moping about so?
Part of it is: the end of an era. Consider pop music. Anyone who came-of-age influenced by the 60’s rock revolutionaries would feel heavy-hearted when the last Beatle, the last of the Stones, and last of the Dead are –well– dead.
The big badass painters like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol –they were Art World’s own Beatles, Doors, Hendrix, Joplin, what-have-you.
There are some second-wave survivors: long live Chuck Close, Robert Indiana, Kenneth Snelson. But they’re not quite the same –just as Jethro Tull, though beautiful, isn’t The Beatles.
I say Twombly gets bonus points for being one of the Great Liberators of today’s artists.
There are Great artists –artists so special they earn a capital G. There are far fewer Liberators: artists who so effectively knocked away rules and restrictions that whole generations of later artists owe them a debt.
An example from long ago: Donatello, credited as the first Western artist since ancient times to depict a full-body nude. Later artists followed and widened the trail he blazed. No Donatello? No Michelangelo. No Titian. Imagine!
I say the 20th century’s artist-Liberators were Picasso, Malevich, Duchamp, Pollock, and Twombly. Others widened, paved, and put express lanes the art-roads which they laid. Want to paint an object from multiple angles or in a deconstructed view? Thank Picasso. Want to focus on pure geometry? Thank Malevich. It was Duchamp’s actions that told artists “any thing you as an artist want to call art (yes, even a store-bought snow shovel or a urinal) is art because you, the artist, made that decision –not rules, but you.”
Pollock freed painters from needing paintbrushes. The visual record of the whole body’s expressive movement can be the subject of a painting. Twombly ‘s art said that even scribbles are art. Itchy zig-zags and scumblings and scrapes can be gallery-worthy.
Want to depict any subject matter at all, even scribbles that “a kid could do”? Thank Twombly.
Western artists of today may do almost any thing in any style in any media. For that freedom and empowerment, today’s artists owe the Liberators thanks. And now the last is gone.
Personally, when I next paint flat upon the ground (thanks, Pollock) without brushes (ditto) and leave some scaggy markings (thanks Twombly) exactly where and how I feel like leaving them (thanks all above), I’ll be in the creative driver’s seat. I’ll be there because the artist-Liberators bought the car for me. I’ll be thanking the
now-departed Twombly. He’ll be missed.
To see Twombly artwork first hand, visit MoMA [ www ] or contact Gagosian Gallery [ www ].
Photo: MoMA [ web-pic ].
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