Cy Twombly: The Sculpture


Materials and Metamorphosis

Twombly, Untitled, Rome 1976 spacer From 1959 to 1976 Twombly's work on canvas and on paper absorbed his attention, and he produced no sculpture between those years. When he again began to work in three dimensions, he executed an entirely new series of telescoping minimal forms made only from cardboard shipping tubes, fabric, and paint, such as Untitled of 1976 (right). His range of sculptural materials extends from the pedestrian (the tops of olive oil barrels, wooden crates and boxes, broom handles) to the ephemeral (dried African lilies). In using wood, his primary ingredient, the artist judiciously combines the textures of found objects with the rawness of unprocessed or weathered woods. While the disparate components that constitute these assemblages retain their distinct character, they are unified by Twombly's coatings of plaster and white paint.

Twombly, Cycnus, Rome 1978 spacer Cycnus of 1978 (left) lyrically represents the wealth of layered meanings suggested by even Twombly's simplest assemblages and elucidates the significance of transformation. Its title alludes to a tale from the Metamorphoses of Ovid (43 BC-AD 18) of a warrior who at death became a swan. The use of a palm leaf--signifying eternal life--demonstrates the artist's frequent incorporation of organic material for symbolic effect. The structure of the leaf calls to mind an unfurled wing yet also evokes the folds of classical drapery. Thus in subtly suggesting both the bird and the man, the work seems to exist in a nebulous dimension between the two--perhaps the very instant of metamorphosis itself.

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