Continuing through June 9, 2012
At the opening of Cy Twombly: The Last Paintings a woman in very heavy gold labels all over expensive possessions stood in front of one large, muscular, drippy painting and remarked to me, as if I were her old sorority sister: "I knew if we waited long enough Ab Ex and platforms would come back. . ." As this show of massively scaled, lushly gestural works on panel depicting what might be flowers indicates, Ab Ex never left. Painting is by definition active and muscular, and artists like Twombly highlight that fact quite intentionally by passing their action on through to the brush, the medium, our eyes, our bodies, our memory. They were doing so in J.M.W. Turner’s time, and they will continue to do so into the future. Platforms, I'm not so sure.
The more than 15-foot paintings look like loose, swirled and splashed abstracted florals in deep red and washy yellows set on bright green grounds. The works come from a series titled oddly "Camino Real" (potentially a reference to a play by Tennessee Williams of that title). As the eye moves from one handsome work to the next, the petal-like form evolves from suggestions of flowers, to cascading calligraphic loops you make with a clogging fountain pen, to pure content-free clouds of pigment able to sort of sear the eye/mind. To take such a ‘sweet’ subject and render it ‘heroic’ (to use the language of the 1960s) just means that Twombly was a master at permitting the presence of the marking act and its emotional evocations to live side by side without separation. Just as interesting in this show of work done right up to his death are the photos the artist took over the years chronicling lived life as one source of his art — fecund peonies, his studio in Lexington, his brushes – all greatly abstracted and full of feeling.
Published courtesy of ArtSceneCal ©2012