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1 r;C(, ( 1

7'(-11/
CYTWOMBLY
SCULPTURES 1992-2005
Essays by Giorgio Agamben, Edward Albee,
Reinhold Baumstark, and Carla Schulz-Hoffmann
Photographs by Jochen Littkemann,
La urenz .....a.J..L-\o.L
f!1rf11tID


ALTE PINAKOTHEK NIUNCHEN
in cooperation with
SCHIRNIERINIOSEL
111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
*17231359*
Publi shed on the occasion or lhe exhibiri on
"e y Twombly in del' Alren Pinakorhek - Sklil pruren"
5 April 2006 - 30 Jul y 2006
Alre Pinako rh ek, Munich
EX HIBITI ON
co CEPT REALI ZATION
Reinhold Baumstark, Carla Schul z-Hoffm:lI1n, Paul Winkler
SUPERVISION OF CO :,<S FRVATION
Eri ch GamzCfI- 'JSLr ill o
CATAL.OG
PUBLIS HED BY
Bayeri sche Sraarsgemaldesammlungen
1' 110 rOGRAPHS
Jochen L. irckemann , Berlin: pp. 17-19, 21, 23, 25, 27,29- 3 1, 33, Yi 37
39,41,43,45, 47, 49 53, 55, 63, 65- 67, 69, 71, 73, 75,
77,79,8 1- 87, 89.9 1,93,95: cover illustration (Un titled, 200 1, detail)
L.aurenz Berges, O(isseldort: pp. 70,111-129, 140-141
Udo Brandhorsr: pp.130, 132, 135- 138
Cagosian Callery, cw Yo rk: p. 97
TRA SIATIO. 5
Jeremy (;aincs (Schulz-HoFFmann, Baulllsruk)
Sarah Moore (Agamben)
2006 Pinakolhck, Munich and Schirmer/Mosel Mun ich
For the sculptures 2006 by Cy T\Vombly
Thi s work is prorected by copyri ghr in who le and in parr. The reproduction
or communi uti ol1 of thi s work in any Form or by any me;\[), wirhour pri or
permission from the: publi sher is i.!legal and punishabl e. Thi s .l l' l'li<.:;; to all acrs
of u"t' , in particular such as rhe reproducrion of ICXl, and pi crures, rhcir
performance' and demonstrarion , rranslation , filming, microfilming, broadcasting,
storage and procC's, ing in electronic media. InFringements will be prosecuted.
DESIGN: Schirmer/Mose l Atelier
LITHOGRAP HY: l\ovaConcepr, Berlin
TYP ES IN G: Fotosarz Huber, Munchen
PRI NT !. G II:'< D BINDING: Passavia, PaSSJlI
ISBN 10: J -R29G-0245-6
I SUN 13: 978-3-82%-02 ') -7
A Schirmer/ \1.osel Produ rion
www.schirmfr-mosel. com
CONTENTS
PREFAC
Reinhold Baumstark
7
CYTWO MBLY
Edward Albee
9
FALLING BEAUTY
Giorgio Agamben
13
SCULPTURES
17
TO FEEL ALL THINGS IN ALL WAYS
Carla Schulz-Hoffmann
99
PICT URES AT AN EXHIBITION
II I
JOURNEY TO LEXINGTON
Reinhold Baumstark
13
1
LIST OF OBJECTS
142
BIBLIOGRAPHY
144
PREFACE
Reinhold
The fact that the works of contemporary sculptor Cy Twombly are on show in the Alte
Pinal<othek and that the public can now view sculptures never before shown in our Old
Masters treasury is an appropriate way to honor and recognize this great American artist
who has long since found his way to Europe in his life and work. Although they were
created on ly recently, his sculptures partake of that age-old quest to express absolute
beau ty. The force of his symbols, the sensuousness brought to life by h is shaping hand,
and the wei gh tlessness of the color white shel teri ng the banal objets trouves and
ennObling them with an aura of timelessness: Al l this serves to place his scul ptures on an
qual plane with the achievements of the Old Masters. Thei r vici nity was sought by Cy
Twombly throughout his career: H e is familiar with Raphael and Poussin (who both,
like him, chose to live in Rome), has found inspiration in Hieronymus Bosch and has
cl osely st udied the colors of the Flemish painters. Therefore in the Alte Pinakothek his
sculpt ures encounter companions and enter into a dialog with them as equals. Sincere
thanks are due [Q the artist for allowing this important part of his recent work [Q debut
not in cen ters of contemporary art but at Muni ch's Al te Pi nakothek, and for having the
sculptures come here as personal loans from his private collection. From the outset, Cy
Twombly has warmly supported the proj ect. His encouragemen t and trust, and our
meetings with him were and remain experiences that have come to be- like the objets
trouves in his sculptures-las ting treasures.
We have two individuals to thank for bringing Cy Twombly to Munich. Very early on
they understood the importance of his art. One of them is Heiner Friedrich, who com
missioned works in 1964 and showed them in his Munich gallery at Maximili anstrasse
under the ti de "The arti st in the northern climate". Later Udo Brandhorst, by deciding
to bring his highly disti nguished collection of contemporary art to Munich, initiated a
project of great consequence to the long-term recepti on of Cy Twombly's art. As early as
1966, collectors Anette and Udo Brandhorst had brought together with farsighted
knowledge and passion a great number of Cy Twombly's works. In recent years the col
lection was thoughtfully enlarged with an eye to the present cons truction of the
Museum Brandhors t next to the Pinakothek der Moderne culminating in the acquisi
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tion of a late masterwork of this artist, the 12-part Lepanto series, which had already
been exhibited in the Alte Pinakothek in 2002. In the future, the Brandhorst Museum
in Munich will be the most important place-after the Menil Collection in Houston
for studying Cy Twombly's art. Udo Brandhorst was moreover the initiator for the pro
ject of presenting the sculptures at the Alte Pinakothek and he has actively supported
this undertaking. I warmly thank him for showing us into the artist's studio, for includ
ing us in his friendship with the artist, and for bringing his enthusiasm for Cy
Twombly's work to the Alte Pinakothek.
Thanks are due to all who worked on the first presentation and publication of Cy
Twombly's new sculptures: To Paul Winkler, the most intimate connoisseur of the work,
for directing the installation of the sculptures in Munich and thus triggering monologs,
dialogs, and choirs, on the experience of sculpture's aesthetic in space, light and time. To
Nicola Del Roscio for giving his friendly advice based on years of intimate knowledge of
the artist's work. To Erich Gantzert-Castrillo for supervising and positioning the fragile
sculptures with the care of a conservator specializing in handling 20
th
-century art. It is
my pleasure also to thank the two famous authors of this volume who, coming from the
two hemispheres of Cy Twombly's life, discuss his sculptures: The greatest living
American playwright, Edward Albee, and one of the most influential contemporary
philosophers, Giorgio Agamben. Their lucid essays are followed by the sensitive inter
pretation of my colleague Carla Schulz-Hoffmann who probes into the deeper strata of
Cy Twombly's sculptures. These writings are ingeniously complemented by photographs
that were especially taken for this volume. Jochen Littkemann has created wonderfully
lucid portraits of the sculptures while Laurenz Berges proves his mastery in capturing the
atmosphere of the Alte Pinakothek's rooms. I also wish to thank Cy Twombly collector
and publisher Lothar Schirmer (and his publishing house Schirmer/Mosel) for facilitat
ing the dialog between essays and photographs and thereby creating such a beautiful
book.
Friends of Cy Twombly have contributed to this book-it is therefore a gift to the artist
from his friends.
8
CYTWOMBLY
Edward Albee
Most painters are painters, and most sculptors are sculptors. Oh, really? Well , yes-gen
erally speaking, this is so, at least as public perception. And, as we shall see, public per
ception determines accepted view.
Let us limit ourselves to 20
th
-century Western art. That way we can sidestep considera
tion of Michelangelo, a clear disprover of the maxim. (I prefer his sculpture, but that is
neither here nor there.)
And let us limit ourselves to prime examples of important painters universally known for
their flat wall work, but who have made three-dimensional objects as well , and see what
happens. Degas (surely he is a 20
th
-century painter!) made lovely sculpture-glorious
dancers and horses (around the time he was painting horses-Iate-ish). These are splen
did works and could have been made only by Degas, but excluding these from one's
knowledge of Degas does not diminish Degas one bit.
The same could be said of Matisse-a painter (and what a painter!) who also made fine
sculpture.
And look for a moment at a few sculptors who did not always stick to their last
Giacometti, for example: an important sculptor (though his signature elongated figures
do not hold my interest-perhaps there are just too many of them-as much as his ear
lier, less familiar work) and whose paintings and drawings strike me as basically "studies
for sculpture"-whether they were made as such, or not. Giacometti is thought of pri
marily as a "sculptor"-and so he is.
Marcel Duchamp is a very important sculptor whose three-dimensional work transcends
the accepted definition and whose importance lies primarily in his relocating the bound
aries of art and whose "art about art" work is one of the major turning points in the
20
th
-century visual experience. He painted-mostly early on-but it is his three-dimen
sional objects which define his greatness. The important Franco-American sculptor,
9
Louise Bourg ois, has made probably hundreds of works on pap r which are a fascinat
ing guide to her unconscious, but it is her wooden totems of the early '50s as well as her
later "Rooms" which will one day penetrate the public consciousn ss suffici ently to place
her properly in due hierarchy.
Now let us look at three painters whose rhr e-dimensional objects are-to my mind-as
important as their flat works: Picasso, Rauschenb rg and Cy Twombly.
No one doubts Picass 's greatness as a pai nter or his importance t the history of 20rh_
century art (though what the public likes is rarely work from his most important peri
ods.) His sculpture-from th cubist work right on th rough, except, perhaps-again to
my mind-the tedious ceramics, is as fi ne as t he paintings (drawings, graphic work) and
is instructive to any s ulptor or-for that matter-anyone interested in the proc sses of
the creative mi nd, specifically in the ways that the sculptures echo the three-dimension
ality of the paintings (has any 20
rh
-century painter been more three-dilnensional than
Picasso?) and exist on such a high creative level themselves. Whenever I see a Picasso
piece of sculpture (especially the cubist ones, of course) I find my breath is taken once
agam.
While Degas would not be diminished as an artist were his sculptures not to exist, I b 1
that Picasso would be.
Among the US painters of the second half of the 20
rh
-century (and through to now) one
stands out to me as a painter who redefIned sculpture (Robert Rausch nb rg), and one
emerges that rare artist equally important in both fi el ds, equally exciting as painter and
sculptor-Cy Twombly.
Rauschenberg's flat work is frequently not flat, of course, and the Combines an d t he
fully free-standing pieces from the early '90s are important works that make dearer the
preconceptions of his totally flat pieces. Would Rauschenberg be less without his three
dimensional work? I think so.
Cy Twombly is an artist who has made scul pture almost as long as he has made paint
ings, but public awareness of it has been sJow in arriving. (But again, it was not un til
well into his career that people began to sense the worth of his paintings-not that he
was slow in blooming, but the specialness of the work, the uniqueness of the vision, put
10
- - - - -- - ~
off those who have to relate something to some specific other in order to know how
their response should be formulated.)
Does Twombly's sculpture look like the kind of work a painter would make? No; cer
tainly not. Does his painting look like the sort of work a sculptor would make? Equally:
no. Both his paintings and his sculpture look like the extraordinarily individual, mysteri
ous and inevitable art works that an artist of his calibre and thrilling non-referentiality
would make.
We can say of Twombly's work-as praise-that we don't know where it comes from,
that its sources exist solely in the mind of the artist and that comparisons tell us nothing.
Twombly's sculpture looks as though it has always existed and is, at the same time, total
ly new. It refers only to itself (however much we attempt to demystify it). The pieces are
solid, airy, serious (but never humorless) and say to us "Look at me as I am. I am simply
this. "
What a wonder for us that "simply this" is so thrilling, so individual. I wouldn't be sur
prised if one day-way down the line-Cy Twombly will be known as the great sculptor
who also did some amazing paintings.
NYC, 2006
II
FALLING BEAUTY
Giorgio Agamben
T he sculpture Untitled, dated Gaeta 1984, bears the English translation of some lines
from Rilke, inscribed on a scroll on the base. T hese are not just any old verses, but the
four verses concluding the Tenth Elegy, and thus the entire cycle of the Duino Elegies.
And it is precisely in the Tenth Elegy that Ri lke speaks as if he were describing "an
unheard offering"-but also a "tempest without a name, a spiritual hurricane, during
which everything in me that was fiber and tissue cracked".
The original four lines Twombly transcribes onto his sculpture are as follows:
Und wir, die an steigendes Gluck
den ken, empfonden die Ruhrung,
die uns beinah besturzt,
wenn ein Gluckliches falIt.
And we, who think of happiness
ascending, would feel the emotion
that al most overwhelms us
when a happy thing foIls.
I would like to linger a while on the proximity between the movement in this verse and
that in Twombly's sculpture, which bears witness to their connection to Untitled, and
whi ch is surely no coi ncidence.
We all know that the Tenth Elegy is a sort of death ceremony, certainly not a Christian
one, but rather an Egyptian one. Right at the end, the dead youth, who has traversed the
land of Lamentation, silently climbs (steigt) the mountain of Ur-Ieid, of primordial Pain.
And here, after this silent ascent, the poet introduces the vertical image of the fall:
Aber erweckten sie uns, die unendlich To ten, ein Gleichnis,
siehe, sie zeigten vielleicht aufdie Katzchen der leeren
Hasel, die hangenden, oder
meinten den Regen, der flllt aufdunkles Erdreich im Fruhjahr.
13
But if they were to awaken a symbol for us, the endlessly dead,
see, perhaps they would point to the catkins of the empty
hazels, the ones just hanging there, or
the rain that falls upon the dark earth in Spring.
So, as in Twombly's sculpture, the idea here is one of a flower, a falling plant. Rilke had
originally written "the catkins of the willow tree", but then his friend Elisabeth Aman
Volkart sent him a book on botany, and he was able to note that it was not willow but
hazel ( H a 5 e ~ that has hanging flowers. In his reply, Rilke writes that, "when he first hears
it, it is precisely this fall that the reader must gather and comprehend in the catkins".
The idea of the fall in the poem is rendered in metric terms by a true split in the second
and particularly in the third line, signaled by a enjambement that interrupts the sense in
a particularly sharp way with a disjointed "or". (The fracture of the stem or the trunk in
Twombly's sculpture seems to repeat this sharpness).
In the four lines that follow, which are the ones Twombly has transcribed onto the
scroll, the fracture is further underlined by the fact that, in metric terms, this verse rep
resents the breaking of two elegy-type lines into four hemistichs, almost as though the
internal caesura in each line had expanded to the point of destroying its unity, to the
point of blasting it into two halves.
I believe that these considerations can form a useful viaticum for understanding the
formal problem that Twombly, who demonstrates that he has intently contemplated the
lesson of the Tenth Elegy, proposes in his untitled sculpture. In more concise words, the
problem is this : "What is falling beauty?" Or, put yet another way: "How can we give
form to broken and falling beauty?"
There comes a point on the creative journey of every great artist, every poet, when the
image of beauty that he appeared to pursue until then as a continual ascent suddenly
inverts and starts falling directly downwards, so to speak. It is this topical moment that
finds expression in Twombly's untitled piece, in the cracking of the wood that, reversing
its upward movement, falls back to earth right at the point where the scroll inscribes its
Rilkean motto.
In the obscure, almost feverish annotations on his translation of Sophocles, Holderlin
developed a theory of the caesura that I do not think would be impertinent to recall
here. In the textured cut in the line made by the caesura, that for this reason he calls
"anti-rhythmic suspension", what appears, writes Holderlin, is no longer the alternating
of representations, the successive movement of the subject and the sense, but the repre
sentation itself, the "pure word". It seems to me that in this visionary sculpture, it is as
though Twombly has succeeded in giving for m to a caesura, in displaying its sculptural
equivalent. In drastically eliminating the floral paraphernalia of Rilkean Jugendstil, he
reduces the problem down to its basic formal core. And as, according to Holderlin, the
caesura displays the word itself, here it is both the work and the art itself that appears in
the shattering and breaking of the upward movement. What I am trying to say is that
the work is not simply a representat ion of the caesura, but is the caesura itself, in its
movemen t, the caesura-the caesura that exposes the inactive core of every work, the
point at which the will of art supporting i t seems almost blinded and suspended. For
thi s reason, it is as though the movement of falling beauty has no weight, it is not the
work of gravity, but a sort of inverse flight, like the one Simone Weil had to think of
when she asked, "Gravity makes things come down, wings make them rise. What wings
raised to the second power can make things come down without weight?"
Such is Twombly's gesture in these extreme sculptures, in which every ascent is
reversed and suspended, almost a threshol d or caesura between an action and a non
acti on: Fall ing beauty. It is the point of de-creation, when the artist in his supreme way
no longer creates, but de-creates, the messi anic moment which has no possible tide and
in which art mi raculously stands still, almost thunderstruck, fallen and risen at every
moment.
In his essay, Giorgio Agamben refers to the Untitled sculpture, Gaeta 1984,
which is still in the possession of the artist. Ill. in: Nicola Del Roscio (ed.),
Catalogue Raisonne ofSculpture, vol. 1 (1946-1997), (Muni ch, 1997), no. 7l.
15
Untitled (" Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum"), 2000
230 x 65.5 x 45.5 em
cae. 8
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. . -

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Unrid d, 2004
125 x 33 x 27.8 em
caL 30 (above: dClail)
18
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--
ntided, 2003
40 x 53 x 53 em
Gu.22
22
---- - - - - - ~
TO FEEL ALL THINGS IN ALL WAYS
New sculptures by Cy Twombly
Carla Schulz-Hoffmann
Cy Twombly's sculptures join in a very subtle and straightforward manner the most dis
tinct extremes. Trivial everyday materials, found objects turn into mysterious monuments
seemingly shrouded in mist, into gravestones, hybrid towers from archaic cultures or
fragile structures that kindle a wealth of widely differing associations. Shades of white in
an astonishing range of nuances, only here and there accented by a few sparing touches of
color, endow these works with an aura of imperviousness and mystery, but also a wealth
that can only be grasped emotionally and not through reason. With paint splashed as
though without intent, running in streaks, and with plaster applied thickly and clumping
to create amorphous shapes, they convey a sense of not being finished and of containing
the potential to change. Nothing is unequivocally and irrevocably defined, everything is
upheld as potentiality-the triviality of the simple basic forms as well as the substantive
claim of a monument laden with meaning. From the imperfection of the shapes, which
often seem captured in processes of evolving and decaying, of waking and dreaming, a
delicate balance develops, a state of suspendedness that enfolds both past and future.
The whi te of the sculptures binds any number of possi ble colors that have not yet
found their manifestation or deliberately conceal it. This corresponds to an intuitively
correlating reality, which accumulates the near and the far, the seen and the heard,
knowledge and sensory perception all in one great cosmos and in one state of conscious
ness. However, all this does not take place in the sense of appropriation, for, as Roland
Barthes puts it aptly: "L'art de TW-c' est la sa moralite-et aussi son extreme singular
ite historique-ne veut rien saisir."1
With the certainty of a somnambulist, Twombly combines different literary, musical and
sculptural stimuli, memories from the preconscious, of the past and present in a timeless
visual idiom. Its meditative unity and sensory intensity holds in concentrated form the
entire cosmos of human feelings, moods and desires, without constraining or apodicti
cally defining anything. Twombly's art thus marks a line in Nlodernity that favors the
presence of timelessness and the positive force of, in the best sense, uncivilized, free
thought to counteract the power of the factual, the banality of the quotidian.
99
More clearly than in his paintings, written character hL e to form legible lines of writing
in Cy Twom bly', sculptures. Dedications, sen ten es, indeed eJuire verses emerge- allow
ing cross-refer nce to li terary sources and associative combinati ns of meaning.
One stele-like sculpture with a broad substructure made of everyday objects- found
objects and leftov rs of domestic life placed one on top of the other to form a t wer
bears the dedication to a certain Alvaro de Campos (pp. 35- 37). Beneath it we read the
initiall y mysterious statement "To feel all things in all ways", which at the same time
establishes a direct link to Twombly's creative notion of looking at reality as a wealth of
interlinked elements that can be experienced intuitively.
In another sculpture that is quite comparable in structure and reminis ent with its
tilted upper str ucture of an anci nt plough (a motif that crops up repeatedly [pp.
39-41]), we read, under the h adline "Demeter Departure of .ripolemos", the verse:
"Hello, keeper of sheep
There on the side of the road
What does the blowing
Win say to you?"
According to Greek mythology, riptolemos
2
(th beloved of the Goddess of Fertility
Demeter whom sh gifted wi th the art of planting wheat) traveled the world teaching
men to plough and sow. On one level and with a view to the passage from the poem, we
can make the connection to distant Arcadia, to an unbroken f; rm of natural rural life.
This is also alluded to in the plough motif and the bottom element us d in both sculp
tures, which s ms like one of those wood n troughs used for baking bread, turned
upsi de down.
A far broader horizon opens before lLS if we relate the texts on both sculptures teach
other. The monument in memory of Alvaro de Campos is dedicated to one of the
numerous fictitio us lives of Fernando Pessoa, one of the m t influential Portuguese
poets of the 20rh cent ury and the author of poetic prose texts. Pessoa clad his ego in
more than ei ghty distinct "heteronyms", each with its own biography, characters and
roles. His mo. t prominent personas were Al berto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Bernardo Soares
and that Alvaro de Campos. The latter took for his motto in life the sensing of reality in
all its facets, as he variou ly elaborated in his poem Times Passage. There w read:
"To feel everything in ev ry way,
To live very thing from all sides,
IOO
To be the same thing in all ways
Possible at the same time,
To realize in oneself all humanity at all moments
In one scattered, extravagant, complete, and aloof moment."3
Tellingly, the above call to the shepherds likewise stems from a Pessoa persona, Alberto
Caeiro, whose most important cycle of works is dedicated to the "keeper of the sheep"4.
H e supplements and expands the empathetic approach to reality by deploying the cat
egory of the ephemeral, of the blurred and the unstable. The shepherd is not the keeper
of a real herd, as Pessoa has his protagonist declare, but instead of the infinite wealth of
his own thoughts . He hopes to track t hem down in the wind's fl eeting messages, there,
on the roadside. The analogy to Twombly's work could hardly be more breathtaking. To
feel all in everything and to hearken to the mysteri es lying beyond well-trodden paths:
T his is the cl aim forcefully made by Twombly's work. At the same time, his scul ptures
are don1inated-in the sense of Joan Mira- by "immobil e movement", by the "elo
quence of silence''', whi ch shrouds them magically as if in a cocoon.
The perfection of the imperfect, of the restrai ned and moreover crude gesture that
does not seek to label, instills one scul pture (n1ade of ci rcular vessels stacked upside
down and bearing the inscription "Beauty is a promise of happiness" [po 23J) with an
ironic as well as a melancholic component. This travesty of a birthday or wedding cake is
covered in thickly applied white streaks of plaster and color, contradicting any custom
ary notion of beauty and along with the wooden sti rrer at tached to it horizontally makes
it resemble an explosive. The quotation on beauty appears in the works of English writer
and statesman Edmund Burke (1 729-1797) and also of French novelist Stendhal
(1783- 1842), al though Ameri cans primarily tend to associate it with the latter-albeit
with a decisive twist, for Stendhal speaks of beauty that is not more than a promise of
happiness.
G
Yet Twombly articulates Stendhal's doubts as to the natural propinquity of beauty and
happiness through his treatlnent and shapi ng of materials, thereby maki ng that promise
seem vague and fl eeting. An indisti nct feeling of sorrow arises, that is increased in anoth
er sculpture, which is, in the context of the other works, surprisingly strong in color (pp.
29- 31). A rectangular base, upon it another shape narrowing at the top, both painted
coarsely white, are crowned with paper fl owers in green, yellow, purple and red tones.
Their beauty seems to be destined for death and- as jf pausing in thei r last breath
they hold on to a pale reflection of their former existenc .. .
101
The colors of these flowers are to be found, applied furiously on large canvases, in the
artist's 12-part cycle of paintings devoted to the Battle of Lepanto.? Unusually bright,
almost risky scales of color define the drama of this sequence of pictures that take as
their theme one of the most symbol-laden battles in human history: On October 7,
1571 the "Holy League", an alliance of Spanish, Venetian and Papist troops led by Don
Juan d'Austria, was outnumbered by, but beat the Ottoman fleet off Lepanto (today
Nafpaktos) in the Gulf of Corinth, initiating the decline of Ottoman predominance of
the Mediterranean.
Yet what might interest a living abstract artist in an historical event that is present to
us today merely as a well recalled date in history but is otherwise lost to the mists of the
past?
Twombly, as early as 1957 when he moved to Italy, became preoccupied with the
diverse cultural influences and mythological traditions of the Mediterranean countries.
This is evident in related titles for his works. From his studio in Gaeta, located between
Rome and Naples, Twombly overlooks a port in use since Roman days, where today US
naval vessels lie at anchor. His place of birth, namely Lexington in Virginia, where he
painted the Lepanto pictures, is home to a renowned military academy and is also the
center of the still very lively cult surrounding the American War of Independence.
Lepanto is far removed from all this, indeed the series develops, as it were, the anti
thetical counterpart to all forms of an unquestioning acceptance of reality and to the
cult of history. Based on the historical sequence, Lepanto conveys the climate and the
mood of an extra-temporal existential situation marked by extreme emotions.
Reports from eyewitnesses reveal that the sea battle took place on a very bright day
and that against all expectations the League's slow ships beat the elegant, gilded and far
more glorious Turkish fleet in a battle that darkened the skies and that saw thousands
slaughtered as though in a blood rage. All this is reflected in Lepanto, albeit not in the
sense of an approximation to the facts but to the mood: It is as if the sea, the day flooded
in sunlight, gleaming marvelously and yet drenched in blood, were made palpable to all
senses. With this, if you will, Twombly proposes a quite different, more radical form of
history painting that at once entails its impossibility. This is not about objectifiable facts,
but about an overall context that comprises all the inconsistencies and contradictions of
memory and perception.
The sensory intensity of the battle fray in the sculpture has given way to melancholy.
The flowers are made of crumpled Kleenex tissues dipped in paint and kept by Twombly
from his work on the pictures.
s
While celebrating the triumph of the victors and yet
102
honoring the dead, they are withering. It is no coincidence that the sculpture evokes a
festive and yet elegiac atmosphere. It is reminiscent of the leftovers of an opulent party
and of a decorated catafalque, whose gloriously colored ornament already contains traces
of the decay that will set in. Strangely, like almost all his sculptures, it thus conveys more
strongly than his paintings that aura of an am bience influenced by Classicism, some
thing familiar to Twombly in its typically American form from Virginia. The sculptures
evidently reflect the particular historical and geographical situation of a state which still
seems to breathe history today and where architecture and countryside exude a specific
atmosphere of the momentary and of leisure.
Here the decisive moment of tranquility between extremes, between the bounty of life
and standstill, between beauty and its irrevocable end, can be felt distinctly in the stele
raised on top of three cubes and made from two juxtaposed wooden planks (p. 17).
Letters-fleeting and seemingly unintentionally applied, in blue fragments with dried
drips of paint-form to spell out the Buddhist mantra: " OM MA NI PAD ME HUM". Its
meaning cannot be conclusively decoded. T he popular translation "I bow down before
Him who sits in the Lotus blossom" does not reflect its ambivalence, but that does not
matter. Instead, what counts is that through constant repetition of the syllables a perma
nent flow arises and language gradually loses its meaning as a reference to reality. Instead
it is experienced as pure, empty form. Language as a means of communication, words in
their function as signs symbolizing things-all this is transcended to a higher form of
conscIousness.
References to Buddhist notions are to be found throughout Twombly's ~ u v r e , where
(as is generally typical of his approach) they are combined with different levels of mean
ing thereby keeping all questions as to meaning unresolved. We must desist from linking
Twombly's associative and intuitive combinatory method too unequivocally to a specific
meaning, as this would work against the very nature of this method. We may safely
assume that the prominent use of the mantras (appearing as early as in the 1982 large
format drawing Suma
9
) as well as in the use of the lotus flower and of the wheel serves as
reference to life's core as bounty in a vacuum, as peace in the center of the maelstrom of
movement.
The tense concentration, a distinguishing mark of all his works, is especially accented in
the numerous sculptures, which may emphat ically be termed monuments. They are all
of a comparable basic type: On rectangular bases or oval wooden troughs turned upside
down (pp. 35-37, 39-41) tower round or angular superstructures made of a variety of
103
materials, for instance crowns of large paper flowers (pp. 50-51); coarsely worked pieces
of wood or found objects (pp. 21, 65-67, 70-71, 73); vertically positioned thin planks
(pp. 25, 35-37); or round discs (pp. 58-61). These creations are often covered with
lumps of plaster to the point of distortedness (pp. 26-27). Their kinetic energy, i.e. their
true core, seems to pull together inside. The sculptures rest in themselves, protect them
selves and the secret they conceal within.
Restrained sensuousness characterizes one sculpture (p. 21) that is accentuated by
specks of red color. On its long side there emerges an only partly decipherable inscrip
tion, possibly the words "wings" and "word" that, along with the female name Thea, are
reminiscent in their elegiac tone of John Keats' Hyperion fragment recounting in the
romantic language of the early 19
rh
century the Olympic gods' triumph over their ances
tors. Here, Thea, sister and wife of the Titan Hyperion and mother of sun god Helios,
takes on the role of the character suffering from the changes, mediating and vainly seek
ing a way out.
10
A similarly restrained mode, a sense of being locked in, is expressed in both rigorously
constructed sculptures that are only sparingly covered by plaster. On them one can bare
ly make out the scribbled letters of the words "Levkon" and "Repos". "Telos" (= end) or
"Tele" (= distance) is to be read on the one (pp. 70-71), "With bright wings" on the
other (p. 73). The sculptures are reminiscent of gravestones and, together with the text
(the French word "Repos" is also used in Greek in the sense of a resting place), suggest a
specific reference to Levkon I, under whose rule in the 4rh century B.C. the burial cul
ture of the Scythians and Greeks reached its zenith in the colony of Panticapaeum on
the Black Sea coast. The king was probably buried there. The entrance to the famous
"Royal Mound" was in the vernacular called the "vagina" or "arrowhead", associations
which Twombly could have combined here with a hymn to Venus, in which the goddess
of "immortal birds" is borne to Earth "with bright wings" .11
However, the importance of this should not be overrated either, as the focus evidently
is on parallel moods and emotions that bring these historical references to life.
Something similar is true for the rigorously structured monument with the title In
Memory 0/Babur (p. 25), which is distinguished by the dedication inscribed thinly into
the base's plaster coat. The writing jotted down in childlike manner dominates the
solemnly barren gravestone precisely because it is so delicate. Thereby it draws all atten
tion to a possibly underlying secret. The name Babur triggers associations with some
remote Oriental empire. The "Tiger" 12 , which is what the name means in Persian, was
Emperor of India in the 16
rh
century and founded the Mogul Empire. He was a poet
10
4
whose works praise male courage, valor and passion as well as meditative withdrawal.
We can intimate a long gone fairytale Arcadia appearing as if in a lucid dream, but wi th
drawing back into its shri ne as we try to hold on to it.
This dreamy component, this state between life and death, appears in Inodi fi ed form
in a sculpture that is dedicated to a historical figure, albeit one shrouded in legend (pp.
84-85). Over a rectangular base towers a pyramid of three tubular sections of different
sizes, all enveloped in a thi ckJy fl owing, fissured layer of plaster. The structure is reminis
cent of ancient temple complexes or French Revolution archi tecture. Two paper inscrip
tions pi nned or respectively nailed to the base provide orientation. Both mysteriously
all ude to the "mathematical dream" of a certain "Ashurbanipal" who was king of Assyria
in the 7rh century B.C. and founded in Nineveh one of the n10st famous libraries of the
ancient worl d and revol ut ionized, among other disciplines, mathematics by subdividing
the ci rcle into 360 degrees. The dream-become-reality resonates in the sculpture, which
in its appearance recalls Mesopotamian stone edifices and reliefs.
The large inscription "LEX" (which, as in many of Twombly's works, refers to
Lexi ngton as the place of origin) inevitably brings to mind the Latin word for "law", an
associ ation that lends the scul ptures even greater weight.
Comparable hybrid tower structures- fantast ic architectural forms alternately recall
toys, the Tower of Babel, and the gigantism of conten1porary high-rises . They are created
by layering parts that are as bereft of function as they are disparate, and that convey,
through the white pl aster (pp. 53, 57, 63,75, 77) or the patina of the bronze (pp. 93,
95), a deceptive image of stability and balance.
From surprising combinations of banal everyday utensils a magic world emerges,
seducing us into accepting as probable the most improbable. An old crate wi th wooden
wheels, a part of a ladder, and two paper flower blossoms attached to wire transform into
a baby carriage or the throne of a fore ign culture (p. 89). Wooden wheels, boards and
burlap are sculpted with the help of screws, string and an allover coat of plaster into an
object of mysterious logic and intrinsic consequence that yet appears to us coherent and
impenetrable (p. 45). Pieces of wood that have been used for stirring paint and look like
oars turn, through this fragile montage, into epitaphs of shipwreck (p. 54). From a base
of imitation tuff remini scent of a skull rises a small wood-and-wire construction that
bears a crown of alder leaves (pp. 82- 83).
Vague memories of old rituals, of mythical sources surface, yet cannot be pinned down.
At the same time, they carry a visi on of the potential for change, of growth and spring,
and of femininity. These associations fi nd confi rmation in the llse of the alder leaves, as
that tree is symbol of the uncanny, of fi re and water, earth, feminin ity and growth.
105
By contrast, the thunderbolt of a mythical god has drilled its way into a plaster
smeared plastic can. Robbed of its former powers, it is a mere copy of itself (p. 81).
In one small monument resonates a melancholy sense of transience and vulnerability
innate in human intimacy and erotic attraction (pp. 65-67). Two branches have been
tied together and placed on an altar-like structure. They seem frozen in motion, a mere
shadow of the comforting closeness now lost. The inscription-clearly legible in grey, its
shadow in blue-underlines this impression. With a slash, implying an equation, Eros is
characterized as a "binder" and "joiner". Revealing are the semantic implications of these
terms: connoting on the one hand the vocations of bookbinder and carpenter, denoting
on the other the tying up, coupling. Thus Eros is designated a quite compulsive and yet
highly vulnerable, ailing plant lacking the energy to stay alive.
This erotic component becomes oppressive in a dangerously unstable sculpture that
has, raised on a rough crate, quite literally lost its balance (p. 33). Like the sword of
Damocles (enveloped at the lower end in plaster and cord to form a phallus) a branch
dangles on a thin wire over the abyss. Another, a horizontal element used to hold the
others in place and negligently fastened by a nail, hardly promises safety and in fact
underlines the threat to the entire structure, the threat to masculinity as expressed in the
fear of castration.
Tie-ups, injuries only casually bandaged, nails, cords and wires repeatedly crop up in
these works. They intensify the instability in many of the works and are crucial to their
ambivalence. Gnarled branches, mounted hastily on a board that is painted black in the
upper part, are reminiscent of a hybrid human figure or a mandrake that resides in some
undefined interim realm (p. 47). Three nails and wire connect part of a broomstick with
a board in such a way that it looks like a burning candle, and yet has something explo
sive about it (pp. 86-87). The small plaster shape on the reverse that dissolves into
impasto streaks and evokes a crucifixion, the splashed traces of red paint resembling
blood, and the monumental stability of the substructure, all form an interplay of diverse
possible evolvements leaving open the outcome.
This universal perception that creates harmony between all and everything, that mean
ders playfully between ages and worlds, that keeps everything in balance, that lets the
remote seem close and vice versa, finds a parallel in a principal idea of Classicism.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe phrased it in exemplary manner in his interpretation of
the Laocoon group.13 He explains the beauty of this sculpture as deriving from the
choice of the right moment: "I would readily say, as the groupe is now exposed, it is a
flash of lightening fixed, a wave petrified at the instant when it is approaching the
106
shore" .14 The ultimately hopeless battle against the death-bringing snakes, so Goethe's
dictum, is here captured in those few seconds that hold the promise of an open end. In
this Goethe sees the indispensable condition for the creation of great art, because "a
double grief, unavailing efforts, a situation which deprives him of all relief, can only
excite horror, and cannot even touch" .15 Elsewhere he summarizes: " ... that the groupe
of Laocoon ... is ... a model of symmetry and of variety, of repose and of motion, of oppo
sition and ofgradation, which present themselves together to him who contemplates it in
a sensible or intellectual manner; that these qualities, notwithstanding the great pathetic
diffused over the representation, excite an agreeable sensation, and moderate the vio
lence of the passions, and of the sufferings, by grace and beauty" .16
Although filtered by the gaze of contemporary artists and derived from a completely
changed repertoire of images and material, Twombly's gaze nevertheless reflects this
stance. With the greatest possible density and concentration, his work mirrors that
balance of past and present, rest and motion, lack and plenty-not as factual reality, but
as the outcome of experience that activates all senses and keeps them alert.
107
NOTES
I Barthes, Roland, "Non multa sed mulcum", in: Lamberr,
Yvon, Catalogue raLsonne des o;uvres sur papier de Cy Twombly,
voL VI, 1973-1979, (Milan, 1979), pp, 7-13, here p. 13,
2 In T'vvombly's work without the "t" (Tripolemos).
3 Alvaro de Campos, "Time's Passage", in: Zenith, Richard
(Ed.), Fernando Pessoa 6- Co. Selected Poems, (New York,
1999), pp. 146 ff.
4 Albeno Caeiro, "Hello Keeper of sheep", in: op, ciL, p. 53.
5 Joan Mir6, "I work like a gardener", reprinred in the exhibi
tion catalogjoan Min!. Creator o/New Worlds (Srockholm,
1998), based on (he translation by Margit Rowell Uoan
j\1ir6. Selected writings and interviews, [London, 1987J),
pp. 223-226, p, 224 (the original French version flrst
appeared in: Revue du XXe siecie, no. 1, 1959).
6 The quote in Stendhal reads: "La beaute n'est que la promesse
du bonheur", in: Stendhal, De IAmour, (Paris, 1822).
Stend hal's pseudonym refers to Stendal, the binhplace of
Johann Joachim \Vinckelmann-an uninrenrional, but
nevertheless inreresting parallel if we consider Cy Twombly's
afflnity to Classicism.
7 Lepanto, 2001, 12-pan cycle of painrings, acrylic, wax crayon
and graphite on canvas, sized between 210.8 and 216.5 cm
(height) and 287.7 and 340.4 cm (width), Udo and Anette
Brandhorst Collection. In 2002 the Lepanto painrings went
on show at Munich's Alte Pinakothek. As of 2008 they will be
one of the highlights of the Brandhorst Museum, Munich.
8 Oral communication by the anist during a visit to his studio
in Lexington/Virginia in Fall 2004, where the Lepanto painr
ings, like most of the sculpcures on display, were made.
9 See on this poinr the extensive discussion by Richard Leeman
in: Leeman, Richard, Cy Twomb6'. j\1alen, Zeichnen,
Schreiben, (Munich, 2005), p, 222.
10 John Keats (1795-1821). Keats, John, Hyperion. En Fragment,
(Darmstadt, 1948), cciition in English and German).
II John Herman Merivale, "Hymn to Venus," 1833, in:
Merivale, John Herman, Poems. Original and translated,
(New York, 1978), reprinr of the London edition of 1838.
12 A telling anecdote in passing: "Tiger" is also the nickname of
one ofJ\vombly's assistanrs in Gaeta, who has a quite unpro
nounceable Romanian name,
to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Observation on the Laocoon",
in: Goethe on Art, Selected, edited and translated by John Gage
(Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1980), pp, 78-88, First published in:
Propylaen. ErsLcn Bandes erstes StLick (Weimar, 1789),
14 Ibid" p, 80, German in: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
"Dber Laokoon," in: Schriften zur Kunst, Parr One (Munich,
1%2), pp. 88-99, p. 92 ("Tch mochte sagen, wie sie jerzr
dasteht, ist sie ein flxierrer Blitz, eine Welle, versteinerr im
Augcnblicke, da sie gegen das Ufer ansrromt").
15 Ibid., p. 86. German in: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
"Dber Laokoon", in: Schriften z ur Kunst. Pan One (Munich,
1%2), pp, 88-99, p. 98 ("doppelter Schmerz, eine vergeb
liche Ansrrengung, ein hulfloser Zustand, ein gewisser Unrer
gang konnen nur Abscheu erregen, wenn sie nicht ganz kalt
lassen") .
16 Ibid., p. 80. Ccrman in: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
"Cher Laokoon", in: Schriften zur Kunst. Parr One (Munich,
1%2), pp. 88-99, p. 91 ("daIS die Gruppe des Laokoon ".
ein Muster sei von ~ y m m e t r i e und j\1annigfoltigkeit, von Ruhe
und Bewegung, von Gegensa/zen und Stuftng:dngen, die sich
zusammen, teils sinnlich, tcils geistig, dem Beschauer darbie
ten, bei dem hohen Pathos der Vorstellung eine angenehme
Empflndung erregen und den Scurm der Leiden und Leiden
schaft durch Anmut und Schdnheit mildern").
109
I
JOURNEY TO LEXINGTON
Reinhold Baumstar!?
Anyone traveling to Lexington today, a small picture!:.que town in West
Virginia, is usually heading for Washington and Lee University or Virginia
Military Institute, two time-honored educational i nsti tutions of national
repute. Yet one may also visit Lexington as one might Urbina, Nuremberg,
Pieve di Cadore, Seville, or Leiden: as a place en nob led by art hismry. It was in
Lexington that Cy Twombly was born on 25 April 1928. Hnc he spent his
outh, received his first influential art lessons, and here, at only eighteen he
created his earliest known sculptures. And though in the early 1950s the artist
looked to New York, and though in 1952, on a trip with Robert Rau5chenberg
to Italy, Spain and Morocco, he explored Mediterranean culture-whose
enchanting appeal affected his entire artistic life-Lexington at first remained
an indispensable home base. Even after Cy Twombly moved to Italy in 1957,
he created a series of ten large, almost monochrome white paintings in
Lexington on a brief trip LO the United States in 1959. In later years, however,
the trips to his hometown are more sporadic, and the catalogue raisonne lists no
ther works made in Lexington.
It was not until late in Iife, having developed ~ t r o n g artistic roots in Rome,
Bassano and Gaeta and having found the pulse of a Mediterranean biography,
thereby opening up m an understanding of European intellectual history, and
eventually having traveled the former territories of emperors Cyrus and
Alexander (after whom he named his son), only after all th is did he make
his way back home. In 1992 he bought a house in Lexington and since then
has spent several months of the year working in Virginia as well. He rented an
empty warehouse where, in 1994, he finished his largest canvas, begun 22
years earlier in Rome (and initially tided ArZtltomy ofMelancholy as a reference
to Robert Burton's 1621 book), a canvas later to be retitled in Lexington as Say
Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores o.(Asia Minor. With its size of four by sixteen
meters and with its wealrh of references to Canlllus, Rilke, Seferis,
13
1
Archilochos, Burton and Keats, it is one of the ani t's most astoundi ng crea
tions. I n Lexington in the spring of 2001) Cy Twombly submitted to a yet
greater challenge by expanding hi, monumental 12-part Lepanto serie - a
reflection on the hi tori cal victory of th fl et of the Holy League over the
Ottoman in 1571-tomake itapan ramaofh rror, doom and death at ea
using a color palette hitherto unknown to his ceuvre. By 1995 the now almost
seventy-year-old artist again took up the medium of sculpture in Lexington,
the very place where he had cr ated his first. These creations from his hand are
late works in the en e that they expre a ereniry and wisdom. Unpubli hed
and with nlya . mall selection having gone on public di play, these work led
t the journeys undertaken by one passionate collect r, one museum director,
and one curator in the fall of 2004, and again by that collector and that mu
seum direct r and a conservator in the spring of 2005. These were pilgrimages
to Virginia to Cy wombly's Lexington.
His studio in Lexington is rather inauspiciou . As one tore among a r w Jt 1
located on a shopping uect in downtown Lexington. The single-story build
ing c n, ists of just a medium- ized room and a small ne in the back. The
fac;ade is only a few meters wide and is divided between a slightly set back door
and a shop window. Lowered blinds prevent glances inside. There is no sign,
no trademark, no nameplate to rev al that in the midst of this small town bus
tle there hides a celJ of creativity. Pedestrians passing n the red briel sidewalk
will, if at aU think of a temporarily closed store. Fronl here it is but a brief
walk to the town' m t important building and to Lexington's greatest attrac
tion, the land cape surrounding it in a gentle embrace. The hiUy Shenandoah
River Valley i framed to the East by the Blue Ridge Mountains and to the
We t by the still higher AppaIa hian Mountain. Small settlements and om
red brick building with white wooden porches ar cattered across the fertile
farmland. People have be n s ttling here for a long time and have witnessed
Arneri an hi tory in the making. One of lhe building from the founding days
of the town is a wh itewa hed wooden tructure with Palladian double column
in the portico and a loggia on top-almost a fanner's version of Palladios Villa
Cornaro. Cy Twombly bought and briefly owned it (upon the ale f the
Lepanto eries) as if it were a declaration of love to his native Virginia. He
speaks of her to his vi itors, and take them t her ights: to the Natural
Bridge, one of the natural wonder f North America, bought by homas
Jefferson in 1774 from King Gorge III to open it to the public; to the
Jeffer n Pools in Warm Spring, the oldest extant bathhou e in the United
tates dating back to the year 1761; and t the elegant Homestead resort in
Hot Springs where the ani t's fath r, Edwin Park r Twombly, used to play golf.
History in Lexington al 0 blend with the per nal: Cy Twombly was born in
the home of Gen ral Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson lhat had then been convert
ed into a ho pital and tOday houses the museum devoted to this legendary
Confederate hero of the American Civil War. Military tradition and a rich his
tOrical pa t form the fa cinating and ndearing setcing for life in Lexington.
All thi is left behind upon crossing the threshold [0 Cy Twombl/s tudio. It is
hard to imagine that in this small room all twelve of the monumental Lepanto
paintings were made. Due (0 a lack of space, the artist could only worl on
four pictur s at a time and hung a new canvas in front of a barely dried canvas
as soon as one wa finished . Drips of dry paint arc still vi ible on the tudio
floor and in their unusual color scale they make reference to a surpri ing work
roce s. Th is cell-like workplace is all (he ill r remarkable when rhe visi[Or
134
considers that Cy Twombly had to conceive of Illonulllental cOmpOSitIOnS,
had to calculate the dimensions of the room-filling series and had to anticipate
the effect on spectators that is now governed by distance and a panorama view.
More miraculous stiJ] is how Twombly in this small room and with closed
blinds (and therefore a limited view of the outside) managed to infuse
Mediterranean light into this work, how his gaze seems to have been branded
by the view of Gaeta Bay and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The humble place of origin
of one of the central works in his a:uvre confirms that Cy Twombly s an
thrives on an internal vision, on concentrating on understanding what he
makes visible to the mind's eye, a process from which grows the precision of
spontanei ty. In the midst of the bustle of Lexington, the artist's studio main
rains an almost monastic character.
Likewise, the three visitors to the studio in the fall of 2004 were unable t
directly view the process of creation in a second group of works that Cy
Twombly had crafted in this room, consisting of approxinutely thirty sculp
tures. Yet here traces of his work were even more visible than the pain t drips of
the Lepanto series. Squeezed into this room, the sculptures (some on the floor,
orne on boxes or crates serving as bases) stood there in a panorama of perplex
ing variety. The entire studio seemed to be an extension of the principle
underlying his sculpture, namely forming various objets trouves into new units
and coating them with a wash of plaster and white paint in such a manner that
trickles , smears, and clumps create a play of vibrant frozen motion, of light
and shadow. Sculptures and the brie a brae of manual labor, pots of paint,
tubes, brushes, drawing utensils and containers, took on the shape of a com
position with objets trou-vls from an active artist's life while all of this seemed t
be transcended by the egalitarian light falling through the white blinds. The
anarchic freedom of the sculpture's effect in the midst of the studio's profusion
seemed a refreshing contrast to the rank and file of the young cadets from the
Virginia Milicary Institute who parade each week in historical uniform on the
fIeld next to their university wh iJe the echo of cannons and brass music
resounds in the artist's studio. Next to the window, as if on the threshold to
the outside world, the room reveals a magical space: Here sits the master, here
he hordes books and leuers, here he welcomes visitors for a chat. This is where
we conversed about his art, won his approval and trust, conferred on the plan
to bring (he precious and fragile works to the A]te Pinakothek in Munich.
135
From here Cy Twomblys eye faJIs on the small, seemingly disorderly, yet force
ful army of his sculptures as though from a secr t command po t.
By contrast, the artist's private home is a personal realm rarely entered by
strangers. The red brick building with white wooden porches c nforms to the
traditional architecture of the South. Inside reign an order detectible only to
the ho t: a variery of collector's items, prints, hunting trophies and books piled
into overflowing helves, stacked on tables, chairs and the Hoor. In th mid t
of this trea ure trove for the ye and the mind the incredible beauty of some of
his wn sculptures, ennobled by their pure whit and enigmatic appearance,
call for the visit r's attention. The 1992 work created on Jupiter Island (with
the isle's sand n its base and crowned by two alder leaves) rises high with truly
fulkean elegance to sustain in lofty heights the barely felt weight of the leaves
wi th a tender gesture as it stand out from the surrounding flood of objects as
an expression of the will to form. Beside it towers the most powerful of all
sculptures in Cy TWOlubly's a:uvre: On a squar base he has placed three drum
segments narrowing at the top and forming a severely pr portioned pyramid.
Since ancient times this has been the mark of any monument and the artist
puts this consensus to use when in inscriptions he dedicates the work to the
memory of Assyrian king Assurbanipal (Sardanapal ), who compiled in his
library at Nineveh the most important collection of Babylonian and Assyrian
literature. Cy Twombly's erudition, his penetrating of cultures, his interest in
the empires of Cyrus and Alexander, and moreover his knowledge and appro
priation of the poetics ofAncient times to our days that covers his a:uvre like a
closely knit, imaginative net, all this fuses into th is work to make it a mile
stone of his art . In Cy Twonlbly's home, the monument recalling the memory
of a great bibliomaniac enters into a dialog with the stacks of books whence
the resident and artist draws his inspiration and knowledge, finds the grai n
137
froHi which) nurtured by his spontaneity, his an constantly re-germinates. In
an exhibition such as that at the Alte Pinakothek, Cy Twombly's sculptures
will without doubt reveal their innate beauty, but [he secret of their genesis,
their fertilization by an expansive mind, remains concealed in the studio, in
the anist's library. Only with this revelation did the journey to LexingtOn turn
into a pilgrimage to Virginia, ro the roots of Cy Twombly's art.
139

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