Cy Twombly, artist, dead at age 83


The American artist Cy Twombly has died. Above, an image from his "Ferragosto" series, from 1961. He died in Rome, after a long battle with cancer.

News: AP, New York Times, LA Times, WSJ.

"A great American painter who deeply loved old Europe has just left us," French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said in a statement. "His work was deeply marked by his passion for Greek and Roman antiquity, and its mythology, which for him was a source of bottomless inspiration." Twombly was known for his abstract works combining painting and drawing techniques, repetitive lines and the use of words and graffiti. He is often linked to the legendary American artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
Twombly is represented by the Gagosian Gallery. And this site has many images of his work.


  1. It took me a while to warm up to Cy. But should any of my fellow Boingers find themselves in Houston, Texas, do yourselves a favor and go to the wonderful Menil Collection. The grounds are host to the Rothko Chapel and the Cy Twombly Gallery.

    In before the “my kid could do that” crowd.

    1. When I read “Twombly” I thought of the giant shotgun in James A. Mitchener’s Chesapeake. It was used to massacre a whole pond full of ducks.
      I was only vaguely aware that the was a painter called Twombly.Now I see why. I hope no ducks were harmed in the making of that painting.

    2. agreed. the Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel left me in tears. good tears, of course.

  2. THAT is the work of an “artist”? I’ve seen better art painted by chimps. (Seriously, I have.)

    1. This would seem to be the dilemma of modern art. Nothing seems to capture that problem better than the recent docu/mockumentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. It always amazes me what gets vetted by the supposed anointed ones of taste and refinement as to what constitutes quality art. Don’t get me wrong I hardly endorse Thomas Kinkade but most of the stuff one finds in a museum of modern art or in a gallery would seem little better than the random Rorschachs of monkeys throwing feces. I would argue this example looks like the product of the above-mentioned act rather than any serious attempt of a primate using a brush as you suggest.

  3. Tryin’ really hard to find the art here…

    In the linked gallery, I see Mr Twombley was greatly influenced by roman architecture. “hmm let’s see…. crudely drawn penii and squiggles. Suppose those are columns?”

    Although I have to say my favorite is “Leda and the Swan (Pt. V)”. It eschews the squiggles and blobs from the rest of the series and shows the artist’s command of the ruler and pencil. Truly an astonishing piece of abstract graphing paper.

    1. Clicking links on your computer is not “tryin’ really hard to find the art here…”

      If you put yourself in front of Cy Twombly’s monumental canvases, and you give something of yourself, you give your full attention, your time, your perception and your thoughts, his work rewards you. His paintings are like time travel, sucking you in and putting you in an eternal space where you can be in different moments in history at the same time.

      But the thing is, it doesn’t work in reproduction, which is obvious to anyone with any sense at all.

      1. But the thing is, it doesn’t work in reproduction, which is obvious to anyone with any sense at all.

        It seems that you are agreeing that the accompanying image that the author of the post has chosen “doesn’t work”?

        1. Sure, I’ll agree that the accompanying 4×5 inch digital image doesn’t do this artist justice, nor do some words from the French Culture Minister.

          But how could they be expected to? Xeni was clearly trying to honor the passing of a man who devoted his life to concentrated expression by sharing a sample of his work, a few comments, and a link to more images for the uninitiated.

          And I’m happy she did! I like when Boing Boing celebrates wonderful things that exist outside the digital world, handmade things, human creations.

          I just don’t understand some people’s eagerness to display their caveman-like apprehension of modern art.

          1. But how could they be expected to?

            Lots of art looks good in 4×5 inch digital images. Sorry his doesn’t, and maybe its quite riveting in person, but if you’re getting your panties in a bunch about people making a judgement about the man’s art based on what they’re seeing in this post, perhaps looking at it from their point of view would be a helpful exercise for you.

      2. I wanted to chime in on this, as I visited the Twombly Gallery here in Houston about a week ago. I understand the resistance to modern art, and I think many people give artistic talent a sort of technical quality, the “I couldn’t do that” reaction. Both Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko are held up by the reverse-snob brigade as examples of modern artists who were either lazy or preying upon a smug, esoteric art crowd with childish work. I’ll admit it, I was pretty skeptical of certain modern art movements (Abstract Expressionism, I’m looking at you) until I gave this a shot and visited the gallery in person.

        I have to say, there is something really arresting and emotional in Cy Twombly’s paintings. First of all, they tend to be gigantic, and the building, designed by Renzo Piano, makes great use of the Texas sunlight and creates a fantastic exhibition space. Twombly’s work is often colorful and energetic, and I understood completely why he is considered so influential and creative. Houston is not a city known for great art, but the Menil Collection and its sibling museums (including the Twombly Gallery and the serene Rothko Chapel) are fantastic.

      3. “If you put yourself in front of Cy Twombly’s monumental canvases, and you give something of yourself, you give your full attention, your time, your perception and your thoughts, his work rewards you.”

        one can get the same effect staring at a wall. it’s all in the “give something of yourself…”. if you truly want something to mean something, your brain will make it happen. this kind of art essentially dares the viewer to believe there’s a meaning, and then to allow himself/herself to find it. which means it might as well be a wall.

        (no, i haven’t actually seen any of this guy’s stuff in person, so i know i’m not allowed to have an opinion. go ahead, take away my internet pass.)

  4. Any other slobs want to weigh in with their stupid opinions on this recently dead artist’s life’s work?

  5. “Abstract art is dumb/ugly/childish/monkeypoo/whatever, and I must go on internets and tell everyone!”

    Uh, you kinda lost that argument about 100 years ago. What did they call trolls in fin-de-siecle Paris? The bourgeoisie?

    And Twombly was maybe controversial in 1960. I’m guessing that was long before most of you were born? In any case, sht th fck p.

  6. Agreeing with nehoccramcire….if you can’t “find the art” don’t bother by burdening us with your uneducated opinions on art. This man was an influence and inspiration to many people. At least be respectful-no one said you had to like it. I hope you don’t like my art either.

  7. This is indeed the problem with modern art. I’ve never heard of this fellow; I’m glad that his art managed to speak to some people and I’m sorry for those who loved him that he’s gone. But this certainly shows the problem inherent in this kind of art — if I were cleaning up his studio after his death I would assume the above piece was the board where he cleaned off his brushes.

    There is plenty of art, music, photography, dance, opera, etc that doesn’t speak to me in particular, but I can generally identify which thing is the artwork itself. Suggesting the above doesn’t seem to actually BE a painting intended for consumption, I believe, does not make me stupid, uninterested, or not elite enough (the three reasons given by his fans thus far in this thread). To me it indicates either self-delusion or an active attempt at identity (and “eliteness”) on the part of his viewers. Does this thing really mean something to you? It is not substantively different than many other similar works found in museums and magneted to refrigerator doors across the country. If this brings comfort, meaning or revelation to your life then congratulations! I’m glad you found one another. The fact that it does not do this for me or many others does not make us stupid; it makes you amazingly lucky.

    Of course, there’s (at least) one guy in every crowd who needs to claim a deep, personal bond with the pattern of rust on the local fire hydrant so that he’ll seem DEEP and INSIGHTFUL in the face of your PITIFUL BOURGOIS IGNORANCE. I think we all went to college with that guy. He’s probably still on campus.

  8. i’m pretty amazed that people will go to the effort of dissing someones work in an obituary. either this work really moved those commenters that much or … i dunno, i just… no manners.

    for my part, i’d like to say that the only reason i know cy twombly’s work is from visiting public galleries and time and time again when i’d see a painting i really liked, i’d check the name of the artist and there it would be: cy twombly. i don’t follow this kind of art very closely, and don’t know much about the man, but i do know that his work caused me pleasure and delight those times i was lucky enough to chance upon it. may he rest in peace, his work made at least one life a little happier.

  9. Yikes, didn’t realize I would touch a nerve. Figured I would be tagged an uncultured hayseed, but personal attacks?

    Just want to point out that I did not disparage this man. A cursory google told me that he was quite the heavy hitter in the art world. He had a positive influence on many people and there’s no doubt he will be sorely missed. His passing is a net loss for the world as a whole. Doesn’t mean I have to like his work.

    That’s the beauty of art, it provokes a reaction and creates dialogue. I’m just sorry this dialogue went south so fast.

  10. Look, if you haven’t seen the actual work in actual person your opinion is completely meaningless and you shouldn’t even bother having it, much less expressing it. When I was young I had a similarly low opinion of for instance Jackson Pollock (“argh blargh my kid could paint that” etc) until I went to MOMA and looked at some of his canvases myself, rather than opining based on low-rez reproductions in Jansen’s or Random Website. The simple contrast between standing 15 feet back to take in the entirety of the canvas and getting your face right up to the thing to get how the details refract the whole is mind-blowing, and unless you’ve done it, do yourself a favor and keep your ignorance to yourself.

    All that said, I’ve never been a huge Twombly fan, but if your response to the man’s death is to reflexively equate his life’s work to monkey shit, let me be the first to suggest that you rearrange your priorities somewhat. Turning off your computer and going outside might be a good starting point.

    Take a pencil.

    1. Disliking this material, and expressing that dislike, doesn’t prove that someone is ignorant. I have seen the actual canvases a couple of times, here in NYC. Pollock, he was not. While Twombly may have helped broaden the concept of what constitutes ART, his seemingly absent-minded execution always made me wonder if he was pulling an elaborate joke.

    2. On the one hand, I know what you mean, and I agree that one shouldn’t compare the man’s life work to monkey shit.

      On the other hand, I completely disagree that people aren’t allowed to voice their opinions, shouldn’t be allowed to have any, and shouldn’t be allowed to express them. How little any of us would speak if we reserved ourselves for only subjects we’ve researched and studied extensively.

      It’s completely within your right to think someone is forming an opinion in ignorance, and disagree with the substance of their statement. And you may respond. But what makes you think that you can judge somebody’s opinions as meaningless and determine whether or not they have the right to have one?

      1. >>>But what makes you think that you can judge somebody’s opinions as meaningless and determine whether or not they have the right to have one?

        Perhaps Mariachi’s sense of elitism. It is amusing that many think that only through lives of dedication to understanding art (visiting it etc. etc. etc.) grants them some form of exclusive oneness with the world of art. I won’t belabor this “discussion” with titles, degrees and the number of art museums I have visited.
        There really isn’t a point to that. You have already proven my point. When the great schism occurred with the salon and the secessionist against the Austrian state as well as movements in England against the “authority” one basically opened Pandora’s box. All sorts of nasty things came bubbling out though admittedly not immediately one would also agree that those changes at the time were good and necessary. What happened after that through succeeding generations of artists was this perception that 1. the masses would not understand it 2. Why paint for the masses 3. art is an effort on both the part of the artist and to a greater degree the observer 4. some great form of enlightenment will occur for those who go through the effort to embrace this new form whatever it might be 12-tone music, modern jazz/theater or whatever abstractionist movement is in vogue at the moment.
        What basically occurred is the movement away from artistic patronage by the nobility and the state to some form of complete artistic freedom with little regard for patronage or support. Lofty ideals but in practice one could argue they might have fallen vastly short of their intentions.
        Into the breach steps the ivory tower crowd who essentially becomes the new nobility/state/patron for the modern struggling artist. With this new “patron” come all the force of the title Doctor of blah blah blah, Institute of blah blah blah.
        We as a species seem to have some deep need to have someone dictate what is right or wrong what is good or foul. We bow down to titles Doctor, your majesty, archbishop so and so. Yet what really grants any of these folks their intellectual/moral ascendance? The answer to me would seem to be our own slothfulness and lack of faith in our own mental abilities to do our own critical thinking.
        The assertion has been made here as well as countless other places that modern art isn’t elitist and that perception of elitism only come from the corners of the world where darkness and ignorance reign. Yet in the same breath most artists and critics will declare that it is important to expend a great deal of effort to fully appreciate the splendor of the work. So in place of normal entertainment which art was often used for we have this quasi religious ritual that involves some mystical form of a personal struggle to be afforded a brief visit with enlightenment and the great guru. Uh huh. How much of the tainted kool-aid have you had lately?
        Looks like primate droppings, smells like primate droppings, tastes like primate droppings ergo must be primate droppings regardless of the size of canvas.

    3. “Look, if you haven’t seen the actual work in actual person your opinion is completely meaningless and you shouldn’t even bother having it, much less expressing it.”

      I’ve seen it in person. It does not appeal to me.

      & ,. *@*( .,

      The above is art. I call it “untitled”. Some day I will die, and you’ll have to live with the fact that you failed to see the beauty of one of my most important pieces.

  11. I’m with El Mariachi. Not a huge fan of the work, but would never dream of claiming it wasn’t art.


    What you perceive to be a problem of modern art is, I think, a problem of your own perception. It’s tied into two things– one, a belief that is seemingly self-evident, that art ought to look like art– and two, a reluctance on a huge part of the population at large to acknowledge that there is a skill that is looking, and that some are better at it than others.

    You get at the first idea promptly– sometimes, there’s little to show that a work is art other than the intentionality behind how it’s placed, eg. in a gallery. But you wouldn’t look at a petri dish, seemingly empty, and say that it’s got nothing in it, or number, say, 619737131179, and say it’s just a number. We have a sense that numbers and petri dishes do have properties or contents that may need some study and unpacking to appreciate. However, we don’t allow art the same– why can’t we accept that some of it is not immediate, or immediately gratifying, or even gratifying at all? Have we really reached the end of all possible aesthetics? Should we all just pack it in an go home? Your (and others’) assertion that art should mean something (somehow), be utterly original and unprecedented, and immediately comprehensible to any viewer tells us a lot about what your assumptions about what art is and how it operates, but not a lot about art itself, the boundaries of which are constantly being redrawn, and whose past outcasts are present masters. People slag artists’ statements and critics’ jibberjabber, but important, salient, and even beautiful ideas do appear there from time to time, if we spend the time to look.

    Furthermore, we accept that other fields, like science and business for example, have people working in them who are simply better at it– more skilled, more experienced, more intuitive– than the rest of us. We usually take their opinions very seriously, and if we disagree with them, we try to engage on a level of discourse that befits the topic. But when it comes to art, arguments are barely made– just an assertion that it is NOT. Most advanced mathematics are past the point of comprehensibility to most of us, but we don’t say that it’s not math. This is not to equivocate art and math necessarily, but simply to say that an assertion of incomprehensibility in the face of a few moments’ consideration (if that) is not a sound basis for the dismissal of a given example of art.

    Finally, I very much dislike the notion that the appreciation of modern (read: contemporary) art is elitist, when in fact the appreciation of every damn thing in the world is elitist– see xkcd here: One could interpret this to mean that people are full of shit and don’t have anything real to say about anything, or that maybe– MAYBE– those ‘elites’, who have spent a lot of time with something, MAYBE, see something you’d be pleased to learn, too, if you gave it a bit of time as well.

  12. I’m not begrudging the man his art or his career. If even one person was touched by this, it was worth it. I am not an artist and I don’t presume to be a critic. Death is always bittersweet.

    But I can’t escape the fact that this just looks like scribbles, or little kid art, to me. (I have little kid art on my walls right now, so again, I am not judging.)

    With art like this, I always wonder how much of its popularity was due to “hip” people on the lookout for something different to like (i.e., would you find this to be art if no one else was looking, or do you like it because other people do?).

    But I am another one of those people who isn’t allowed to have an opinion because I haven’t seen this in person, so you should probably just ignore my comment.

  13. An elitist is someone who insists that their preferred way of looking at art is the Right Way any anyone who doesn’t look at art the way they do is deluded or a poseur.

    If you don’t know anything about soccer there’s not much difference between a World Cup match and a kid’s game. It’s just a bunch of people running around kicking a ball. But if you know how to look at a soccer game, then a hidden world opens up. Whether a striker is standing HERE or THERE becomes significant. A invisible structure of feints and counter-feints emerges, and the depth and complexity of the adult game becomes apparent.

    The same is true of art. If you’re not willing to learn about the game, if you insist that there’s only one way to look, then a lot of the action on the canvas is going to remain invisible.

  14. Congratulations to all the “haters” using the trite and over used cliches of: “my dog, chimp, child, genitals etc could all paint a picture like that!” You, like all the other detractors, with your ad hominem arguments and attacks, throughout time have already contributed your small parroted amount to the ongoing academic/non-academic, phenomenological, aesthetic and, often, existential dialogue about art. Of course you are allowed your opinion, as am I. That is why art _is_ always interesting: the on going debates, the fashion of what is beautiful or acceptable and even consumable. What a boring world for all of us if we all loved the same thing! Those who dislike join the ranks of Plato, who was suspicious of art and artists of his time. So there have always been “haters” – pretty admirable, really to be part of that group. Everyone is entitled to like something or not like something, and I will support your right to have your say. It is too bad that you couldn’t add more than “chimps crap like this”, but I would politely argue that they can’t and won’t.

    However, don’t dismiss Mr. Twombly based on this one painting or without considering the man’s entire life and work. Love him or hate him, Cy Twombly’s importance and influence on other artists, the art world in general and viewers has been significant. This is one painting. Cy Twombly was also a sculptor and installation artist, and a very prolific one at that.

    Maybe some of you (who had stated as much) could have painted a picture like this, you could have even maybe painted the Mona Lisa with enough training and historical/artistic context, but you didn’t and you didn’t do it at the time. You certainly didn’t live this man’s life and dedicate yours to making artwork like he did. If you decide that you are suddenly going to start pumping out Cy Twombly rip-offs and try to make a go of it, good luck to you. I doubt those of you who say this actually have the wherewithal, patience, dedication and heart to actually pursue this kind of career or endeavour.

    Ironically, my first experience and opinion of the man’s works was actually similar to those who dislike, in that I didn’t like them much and couldn’t understand the artistic and technical merit. Over time as I learned more about him and discovered his larger body of work and experienced the work, finally, in person, my opinion dramatically changed. The mythological elements and focus still resonate with me and are always the starting point to draw me into his work. I believe that mythology is primal to our human story across races and cultures.

    For a good brief introduction to the gentleman, you should check out the wiki. He was a very interesting person who made classical studies, cryptology (including text in artworks) interesting again for new contemporary generations. Maybe you might change your mind or at least gain a greater appreciation, but for those who still don’t give a damn, carry on.

  15. folks, this “my dog / kid / chimp could do it” argument is an old one, esp when it comes to Towmbly’s work and it is a criticism he faced for many years.

    Try and read this essay
    “Your Kid Could Not Do This, and Other Reflections on Cy Twombly.”

    in his own words “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture”


    1. I’m sorry. I don’t know what are the artist’s motivations and, since I don’t know his other works, I can’t say how capable he was as an artist, but, according to what I see, I can only qualify it as art in the loosest definition (such as Scott McCloud’s “Any activity which does not have the primary purpose of survival or reproduction”).

      I’m really sorry, I can’t qualify this as good art. He might have had complex motivations and inspirations, but none of it is visible in the art itself. That kind of art is something anybody could do. Yes, even a kid, even in the sense of the hidden meanings. Kids see entire worlds in their indecipherable scribbles, the problem is that nobody else does.

      How can we say this kind of art is good, if we can’t even understand it? Since it fails to convey any meaning and it isn’t visually appealing by itself, it’s hard to say the artist is in any way capable or talented. While art is very subjective, I can’t say this piece of art is noteworthy in any way.

      “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture”

      That doesn’t make it any better. A kid with a crayon is also having “an experience”, which is why sometimes they draw scribbles without any meaning, just because they like to play with the crayon.

      Not only that, but what does it matter if he had “an experience”? Well, good for him, but if the end result are unappealing undecipherable scribbles, he really doesn’t have a lot to show. If he had interesting explanations for those scribbles, then the value is on the explanations, not the paintings, because without them the paintings are only undecipherable scribbles that a kid could do.

      1. Well imho he’s no Rockwell or Warhol, and I had never been aware of his stuff before I saw the obit – but the obit is intriguing:

        The part about Mr Twombly being commissioned to do a ceiling in the Salles des Brasses in the Louvre at Paris is also worthy of note…

        …and at a first pass, I don’t mind his stuff at all, what I’ve seen of it.

        But I really am in no position ( I’m simply not qualified ) to judge its objective worth.

      2. In the absence of agreement on matters of taste, let’s just say it’s art because Leo Castelli said it was.

  16. Great teachable moment about art here…

    I encountered his works for the first time at the temple of Cy in Houston, and I have to say my response was closer to the “my kid” crowd, but tempered by a great love for and tolerance of much modern art, and exposure to the sociology of art consumption by way of somebody like Pierre Bordeux
    (short version: people use art opinions as a weapon to assert their class position).
    A key question was “Why does he get a temple, and not somebody else?” A quick flip through one of the exhibition books will give you a clue that it has something to do with an accident of biography, who kissed who; he traveled and sometimes lived with Rauschenberg, later married a woman from a family of wealthy art patrons … if you don’t know the story of Rindy Sam, the artist who kissed Twombly’s blank canvas leaving lipstick traces in France a few years back, prepare for hilarity.
    I’ve given some consideration to basing a theater piece on that incident, which also inspired a second gallery.
    I recently saw a book of photography by Twombly that I’d have liked regardless of the creator.

    John Waters collects Twombly:
    —– quote
    “Doesn’t it make you mad? It should. It’s modern art’s job to destroy everything that came before it,” Waters said. He then praised Twombly for his artistic scribbles, handwriting he referred to as “both violent and erotic.”

    Waters, who keeps the Letters of Resignation catalogue by his bed, says that Twombly created “such confident work it makes people mad.” To detractors not fond of the work, Waters offered this retort, “This kind of contemporary art hates you too, and you deserve it.”
    — end quote

    But I’ve talked with intelligent people I admire who claim to have been moved or pushed into interesting interior dialogues by his work. Obviously, by virtue of this post, I too have been pushed into interesting places and conversations – I’ll grant that.
    I tend to want something with a bit more Gestalt appeal, universality, and am kind of ruined by burner culture being willing to construct something of great universal appeal and throw it away. “It was about my experience”, but now you millionaires can have a sniff of it …

    Donald Judd apparently hated Twombly’s work and critiqued it, derailing his career for a while… another polarizing character whose work I’ve seen first time at the temple and also have very mixed feelings about. Judd also wanted the art to be about experience and discouraged reproduction; he built his own temple at least, go to Marfa and they’ll slap you down if you dare to shoot video and try to make something from your experience, from the play of light on an object that day, to turn it into an ephemeral piece of projection art that will be seen only once in a room they don’t control. A neighbor stripped her “I heart square’ bumper sticker off the car after doing some kind of service residency there and soaking up the ‘tude.

    Art … you have to be ready to swim in the Narcissus end of the pool, deep or shallow as it may be.

    1. That’s supposed to be Pierre Bordieu, not Bordeux or Bordeaux in case any of y’all coastal elite nitpickers wanted to take my Frieudian bait and validate his theories by a spelling smackdown.

      Twombly also did crypto in the army which allegedley had some impact on his work, the adoption and obscuration of texts … seems like that has to be mentioned in the Boing Boing context.

  17. A great post strangevibe you hit on many of the issues of what one might call the so-called high-art world.

    Three things occur to me here.

    One it would be impossible to logically argue anything in regards to art. It can’t be done. It is much like religion in that it is a deeply personal experience. The acolytes of twombly will go to their deaths declaring the genius of the man. Likewise X-ians will go to their deaths either declaring their god exists or their way is the right way and/or the only way. Too much emotional investment in an intangible thing. A true gordian knot that no one will be able to untie.

    Two: The label “hater” is something the young crowd loves to brandish about. In their world everyone who disagrees with their world view is instantly labelled a hater. I would accept the label mocker because much of what I have seen from the likes of the Twombies of the world in my mind deserves to be mocked. A word of caution to the 20/30 something set. Be very careful what you wish for. If your future becomes one where dissenters aka haters are cordoned off contained or abolished… your world will become an inane bland tapioca “paradise”. One which I hope I don’t live to see.

    Three: Back to strangevibe’s excellent post. He/She quite clearly points out the big missing component in modern art/music/theater, whatever. That missing component is what many of the so-called haters have pointed out… what does it all mean and why should I care? Countless examples can be cited where one of the great lessons in communication “art etc.” is that one must consider their audience. Modern art doesn’t do that it considers the self the artist. It is a massively self indulgent experience akin to masturbation. Maybe for some it is pleasurable to watch another masturbate. It would seem to me to be a rather pointless exercise in voyeurism. Modern art might be good for the artist and his/her lonely hand but it does little for the audience. Looking into the soul and mind of another individual can be a fascinating experience. I most cases this can be done via some common shared experience or reference. In the case of Twombly or Rothko, where is that point or frame of reference. To borrow from an overused phrase… throw me a bone here people.

    1. I can definitely see where you’re getting at with the masturbation thing. I’ve always been of the opinion that (genuine) appreciation of modern art has a distinct correlation with one’s ability to empathize with the artist – whether it be intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. Twombly’s works appear to be devoid of meaning when examined purely for their aesthetic value. I personally find nothing of value in them, just flipping through the galleries. But given the context of his work? Or perhaps some detailed analysis that legitimizes some structures I hadn’t noticed before? Who knows, one of his pieces could leave me with a profound impression with an informed enough viewing.

      Sure, it looks like crap. But some of you are way too quick to judge. At least take the time to learn the context of his scribbles before you decide whether or not they are worth anything.

  18. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say you’re not “allowed” to have an opinion of a painter whose work you haven’t actually seen. (Of course you’re allowed to, but it’s stupid and meaningless.)

    Besides, there is so much art and beauty and experience out there, why not go find some that does appeal to you or challenge you instead of wasting your time tearing down something you don’t like? Nobody’s hanging this stuff in your living room and forcing you to look at it every day.

  19. The first time I saw his work was at the Sensations of the Moment exhibition at the MUMOK in Vienna. As much as I tried to like it, I just couldn’t. I later came across him at the Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin. This only confirmed again that I didn’t like his work. His primative, deliberately ‘basic’ style left me completely cold. I actually find seeing his work in person only makes it worse. I find the photos of his work actually make them seem more sophisticated than they really are. Of course saying an animal could paint it is coarse and lazy, but I think Twombly’s work deserves any of the disdain it gets. I don’t buy as they bullshit about him destroying art to save it or whatever.

    I guess I’m just too much of a fan of German Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism to appreciate it.

  20. Look, strangevibe and oestrek make valuable, salient points about ‘haters’ and an elitist tendency in art– as in all cultural circles, like I said earlier. (ben bruneau, unable to login for some reason).

    What I’d really like to understand is why it’s so repulsive to people that art might not want to look pretty, or be ungratifying in the short or long term. I would argue that the dismissal of art based on overly simplistic and ill-defined notions of what art should ‘look like’ and how it should act on a viewer is regressive, conservative, and reactionary, three things that I think Bourdieu would situate himself against. Recalling that Bourdieu wrote a lot of his class studies in the 60s (as, in fact, the text cited is from), one wonders if he was siding himself with or against Twombly and his contemporaries, and/or if shifting aesthetic sensibilities have brought his reading along for the ride.

    Also, wouldn’t Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard, contemporaries of Bordieu, and generally on his side, be generally in favour of a kind of art whose meanings and trappings are indefinite, shifting, and not strictly obvious? In their eyes, wouldn’t the journey be at least as important as the product? Wouldn’t it be necessary to resist the urge to produce the obvious, the spectacular, or the sublime, being notions rooted in highly classist philosophy of the 18th and 19th centuries?

    Really, is it so elitist to want to expand the definition of art? In the art world, this kind of thing is seen as INCLUSIONARY!

  21. Thank you for the reasoned response @benjamin bruneau, and I don’t mean to say (and don’t think I did say) that anyone appreciating modern art is just being obnoxious. Some people clearly are being snobs for the sake of it, and others are actually moved by it. I think you put some words in my mouth about expecting immediate understanding of art: Miles Davis’ Spanish works are really hard to listen to and many people walk away immediately, but they eventually got to me. I can’t seem to get anyone else to listen to them so they’ve become a private pleasure. And I don’t begrudge people private pleasures, whether art, religion or kinky sex: enjoy your life, don’t hurt people, and if I’m not interested leave me alone.

    The personal nature of the attacks and the elitism in the early comments in this thread are surprising. I don’t care if you like my music, why should I care if you like Mr Twombley? Were he still alive, why should HE even care?

    I think, though, that @cleek makes an excellent point above. One can eventually find “art” in anything, because our brains will get us there if we really want it. Maybe that’s what Twombley supporters here are calling “having an open mind”, and his detractors are calling “being duped.” If Mr Twombley picked up the random bit of canvas he had been mindlessly wiping his brushes on for a month or so, signed it and hung it in a museum, I think there’s every chance some people would say “that’s not art” and some would say “you’re not giving it time!” I know absolutely nothing about the man, and I don’t mean to suggest here that he did his work thoughtlessly; what bothers me about this kind of art is not that I can’t tell the difference, it’s that I don’t think anyone can.

  22. You know what also has shares the letters a-r-t? Marketing! Does not great art also have great marketing? Was Warhol a great artist or an even great marketer? I will admit to no great insight or understanding of what makes art bad, good, or even great. I get the timeless art of great painters like a Rembrandt or even a Monet. But I’m less inclined to take someone else’s word that an abstract piece like Twombley’s picture on the OP has some greater transcendental value for us, collectively. Sorry, does nothing for me.

    But I also know that art value is not function of popularity. In fact, the value becomes what a collector is willing to pay to have it hang in his or her personal gallery or, more crassly, as some kind of financial instrument that, hopefully, appreciates over time. I think that requires a marketing industry or ‘art community’ to constantly reaffirm the artist’s works by providing the ‘buzz’. You are either in the community and understand art or you’re on the outside, damned never to have the truth revealed.

    So I look at this painting and I wonder, what makes it important? I haven’t heard any compelling explanations as to why this work is significant. Calling me ignorant won’t help me to understand what I’m missing.

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