Acquired from the above by the present owner
In early 1960 Twombly and his family had moved into a grand new home on the Via di Monserrato in Rome. His everyday life was infused with the antiquarian splendour and colourful sights and smells of the classically Arcadian Roman campagna. Denoting a movement away from the measured rhythm of the artist’s earlier 1950s production, the present work signals an urgent and fractured transmutation of classical stimuli and the mythologically evocative Roman landscape. Through sinuous lines, urgent scrawls, frenetic numbers, and expressive bursts of colour, Untitled enunciates a fragmented vision and reimagining of the ancient myths that permeate the culture of this historic city. Untitled broadcasts Twombly's staggering innovation and inimitable abstract aesthetic through its visceral imagery, compositional economy, and graphic intelligence, traits that intriguingly appear both instinctive and seemingly arbitrary.
Twombly's work in the 1960s investigates the process of drawing, which veers towards - and eventually becomes - an exploration of signs and writing. As Untitled beautifully testifies, the artist analyses the nature of visual cognition and communication by investigating semiotic sign systems: by experimenting with indeterminate iconography he questions the assumptions of conventional visual vocabularies, frames of reference, and sign systems. Consequently, as the renowned critic and philosopher Roland Barthes comments, "What happens on the stage Twombly offers us (whether it is canvas or paper) is something which partakes of several kinds of event" (Roland Barthes cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cy Twombly: Paintings and Drawings 1954-1977, 1979, p. 9). As with Twombly's best output Untitled mediates the boundary between figuration and abstraction, continually enticing the viewer with implied meaning and challenging the cognitive deductions inherent to signifier-referent equations. Although Twombly interrogates the ways in which artistic transactions function, this work also initiates a powerful visual effect.
In spite of Twombly's graphic reduction, the present work brims with an abundance of energy and intense complexity. We are invited to contemplate whether, buried within his drawing are hidden messages designed for our dissection. Mediating a space between spontaneity and control, his scribbles are full of suggestive details but remain irresolute. With its colourful lines whose steady, progressive rise and fall insists on their attachment to the constraint of writing, Twombly reveals his interest in measurements and rhythms. Unique to the artists approach is a myriad of esoteric cultural references that serve to communicate an interpretation of poetry, mythology, history and modernity, of which the present work is a consummate example.
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