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Cy Twombly
at the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Small-scaled but satisfying, Cy Twombly’s eponymous exhibition features three recent works that remind us how relevant the 81-year-old artist remains. Organized by Bruce Guenther, the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art, the show features two paintings and a bronze sculpture.  In the 2009 painting "Leaving Paphos Ringed with Waves (III)" the artist counterposes text and form in his well-established fashion, the text scrawled in the calligraphic graffito that he has employed since the late 1950s.  Now as then, the tactic simultaneously illuminates and blurs the relationship between meaning and form, referent and line. In an untitled 2007 painting from his “peony” series, he allows luxuriant drips to rain from clustered forms, creating an elemental semi-abstract composition. The untitled sculpture, begun in 2000 and completed in 2009, suggests a dry, yet vaguely suggestive, contraption that is part jack-in-the-box and part layer cake, all topped by a pestle. In richly distressed metal, it accomplishes a similar feat as do the paintings, which is to skirt the boundary between concept and gestalt in a way that is playful and visually sumptuous. Twombly’s influence over succeeding generations of painters and conceptual artists has been pervasive, and this exhibition illustrates quite cogently why.

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