ART/ARCHITECTURE – Cy Twombly – Free Ebook

abstract art continues to provoke annoyance and confusion in equal measure you know the kind of thing a large blue canvass for the solitary white line down the middle white paint swapped over a deep black background a seemingly random bunch of steel beams sprouting like weeds what does this mean is someone making fun of us surely this could be the work of children to adopt a more sympathetic approach which can be useful and fair we need to go back to first principles and ask what’s so good about not showing what something looks like the central intention of abstract art is to bypass representation and get straight to emotion like music abstract art is best interpreted as echoing or giving a form to certain of our inner states or moods some might be relatively straightforward like anger or calm but others will defy easy definition in language it is therefore not very helpful to say this painting doesn’t look like anything it is true that it doesn’t look like anything in the outer world but this is because it is trying to represent the inner one we should be asking what does this work feel like does it evoke any of my emotional states what piece of mankind’s inner landscape is being summoned the great abstract artists side family was born in 1928 in the pretty ultra conservative town of Lexington Virginia his father had been a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in UK terms today that’s the equivalent of being a Premier League footballer the artist was actually christened Edwin Parker Tom Lee but became known as psy in honor of one of the most prominent figures of baseball history siyoung he went to Darlington a fancy expensive private school and eventually made his way to New York to study art in the early 1950s he then spent a year touring the Mediterranean the journey changed his life he found himself an aristocratic girlfriend moved to Rome and inaugurated his trademark abstract style he hadn’t left reason behind he was deeply alive to the lessons of Roman and Renaissance art what he wanted to do was give form to the inner states of humankind just as the ancient masters had given form to our outer ones take his panorama of 1955 which is now in the Museum of Modern Art New York we can’t see the lines precisely but they fill the canvas like mysterious script on a blackboard we are held at the moment of being on the cusp of something we are about to understand but have not yet understood this work homes in on what it’s like when you almost know what you think about something but not quite it pictorial eise’s a moment in reflective life suggestive of ambition and confusion it shouldn’t surprise us in any way that Twombly loved figurative representational art indeed his favorite artist was the 17th century painter Pusa who had also lived in Rome but he wanted to do something different in his own work the title of this painting hero and Leander makes reference to a tragic couple in classical Greece Leander used to swim three kilometres every night across the Hellespont to meet his lover Lord Byron tried it and now there’s a club but formerly hasn’t tried to show us the dripping torso or the treacherous moonlit waves like Poussin would have done instead he has made a picture of what a certain feeling of love is like the sense perhaps that someone you care about is making desperate efforts to get close to you or the sense that someone you love is desperately longing to make contact with you it is a work of drama and passion showing without representing gazing at the intricate soft swirling surface one is drawn into the precious sense of the price of love 12 Lee’s career was devoted to making portraits of our inner lives so he might learn to communicate its fruits to others cutting others to share our experiences is notoriously difficult words can feel clumsy this is more elegant apart from abstraction Tom Lee had a tendency to go in for some very simple looking bits of writing it’s a bit like a note to oneself half doodled on the back of a company report an idea or a phrase that’s come into one’s head but doesn’t yet have a definite meaning it looks like graffiti something scrawled on a neighbor’s wall to give a fence to express anti-social aggression but in warm Lee’s hands that urgency that excitement and daring that risk-taking that readiness to cause offence and upset people’s comfortable expectations are being deployed in the name of wires cultivation and true self development of the enlargement and refinement of the spirit all things for which Goethe in Italy is shorthand it’s a reminder of what we should think about and pay attention to far more than these slogans and brand names to which we are continually exposed sigh Tom Lee died in 2011 in his beloved Rome he was 83 and he’d lived to see his works game immense prestige and appreciation amongst those whose opinions he greatly respected his paintings are simultaneously about nothing and about everything that is most powerful private and hitherto in communicable but important within us all he will last as long as some of those great Romans he so deeply admired

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