Twombly’s move to Italy coincided with his growing reputation as an artist. After Leo Castelli added Twombly to his stable of artists in 1958, Twombly established himself as one of the first American painters to champion Abstract Expressionism in Europe. Giorgio Franchetti, one of the main promoters of Post-War American art in Rome, introduced Twombly to the city’s artistic circles. Through Franchetti, Twombly met and interacted with the preeminent Italian avant-gardists, including Afro, Piero Dorazio, Toti Scialoja, Conrad Marca-Relli, Giorgio de Chirico and Salvatore Scarpitta, with whom he shared a studio in 1957. As the art critic Cesare Vivaldi stated, “the first paintings and drawings Cy brought from New York startled and impressed all those who had the chance of seeing them, mainly because of that poetic, but almost merciless way in which the extreme conclusions of both action painting and Neo-Dadaism were drawn” (Cesare Vivaldi in Kirk Varnedoe, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, New York 1994, p. 26).
Hugely influenced by the artistic splendor of ancient Rome and the avant-garde spirit of his Italian contemporaries, Twombly’s style became increasingly colorful, visceral and complex. The monochromatic paintings from his Lexington series evolved to frenetic sequences of pencil drawings and vivid pastel strokes. In Untitled, graphite scribbles, geometric shapes, handwritten numbers and crossed-out words rush across the paper, mediated by intermittent waves and arches. Every mark, shape, word or number seems to be suspended amidst the sheet’s whiteness, fragments waiting to be given a purpose. The composition resists any structural or narrative organization; the pencil work breathes life to the sheet of paper, leaving traces that travel across the white plane, showing no signs of stopping at its edges. It is in this spontaneity that Untitled captivates its audience. We are invited to decipher the myriad lines and shapes, and to uncover their significance. The artist’s hand urgently traces everything that his sight and mind are experiencing, in a creative frenzy that acknowledges no boundaries between line and form, figuration and abstraction.
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