Sunday, November 6, 2011

WAVES: "And I got into the wet," said Cy Twombly

We drove to Baker Beach in San Francisco. It was beautiful, cool, very windy, as you will hear:

Waves, and more waves. We had just been to the Legion of Honor, and had seen a wonderful painting by Claude Monet called "Waves Breaking"; here is a detail:

And we thought ... Twombly!  So I went back to paintings I remembered from a show we had seen years ago, to "Untitled," from 1970, created from oil and house paint and crayon, on a very big canvas (11' 4" x 13' 3"):

Most people, (including, up until now, me), would call this one of Twombly's "Blackboard" paintings. But, having seen the waves at Baker Beach, and the Monet in some detail, I now think this is a "Wave" painting: look at those repeating circles, which now seem less like cursive writing than breaking waves.  And, if you want a Twombly painting where the cursive waves pick up Monet's colors, and add to that a sense of sky. It is "Untitled," from 1964 and 1984 (quite a span, that!), oil and pencil and crayon, 6' 8 3/8" x 8' 2 1/4":

This is one of my favorite Twomblys.  Perhaps it's just the sea air from today,  but this painting is the sea, for me. And just in case you thought Twombly didn't ever think of water, here is a quote from an interview with Nicolas Serota in The Guardian (June 2, 2008). Cy Twombly said that as he grew older, he'd had to shift the way he worked, so that someone else needed to get on that ladder and prep his surface:

"Paint is something that I use with my hands and do all those tactile things. I really don't like oil because you can't get back into it, or you make a mess. It's not my favourite thing - pencil is more my medium than wet paint. I did by mistake paint on a picture in Lexington and then quickly put an image on top. And I got into the wet. I had the background painted, worked into it and then merged the background and surfaces. Before, I always had a dry background and painted on. Now, I have someone paint the background that I have already figured out."

I really love the idea of the crisply-dressed Twombly getting "into the wet."  Happy wading.

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