Painting with the left (hand)

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cy Twombly died yesterday at 83. I don’t know whether this Bacchus series, that I first saw last year at the Tate, is a good work or not: I don’t really know anything about painting. But I can say that I kept thinking about it for months afterwards. It’s not about the colour, it’s not even about the gesture, it’s about the canvas as the surface upon which time itself is recorded.

Donald Judd famously called a 1964 exhibition of Twombly’s a “fiasco”, saying that “there is nothing to the paintings”. Judd has written some of the sharpest, most brilliant art reviews ever. In Twombly’s case he might, or might not have been wrong: in any case, I wish I had the privilege to see that fiasco firsthand. Sometimes Twombly is so effortless he seems facile. Sometimes you feel he’s just a clever intellectual tricking you into believing there is some hidden depth you can’t quite grasp (I mean, painting with the left hand to be more detached? totally feels like a trick). But sometimes there is something to his canvases, a presence, a vibration, that redeems it all. He is in the canvases somehow. And will be for many years to come. Arrivederci, Mr. Twombly.

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