The distinct calligraphic gestures in Cy Twombly's Untitled (Roman Notes) beseech interpretation. The viewers' persistence in trying to read Twombly's surfaces, a fascinating yet futile game of projections, originate in the varying degrees of legibility encountered in his pictures. Twombly's paintings while devoid of legible symbolism, correspond to a specific vocabulary of signs and gestures depicting the artist's personal experiences, the transience of his reality. In 1959, Cy Twombly moved to Rome, where he became enraptured by majestic the panoramas and classical landscapes of the High Renaissance. Here, he developed a highly personal, cryptic style of poetic "handwriting" that was permeated with the grandeur and decadence of the Mediterranean world. Twombly's graphic language is visual poetry, a "furtive gesture and écriture automatique, sexual catharsis and both affirmation and negation of the self. As full of ambiguity as life itself... Twombly's 'writing' has neither syntax nor logic, but quivers with life, its murmuring penetrating to the very depths of things." (Pierre Restany, The Revolution of the Sign, 1961)
In the present Untitled (Roman Notes), 1971 the spontaneous wrath of Twombly's hand alchemizes experience and mythical imagination into an intuitive matrix illusive signs and ambiguous forms; disparate landmarks on a voyage of self-discovery. The translucent layers of background color are at once rosy and golden and milky blue – like an opal. Black and blue lines, shaky but elegant, vein horizontally across the composition, like horizon lines in a blurry world. His illegible script forces a vague sense of order onto these otherwise dreamy lines. To decipher their idiosyncratic forms employing conventional aesthetic values is to ignore the intentionality behind their decisive ambiguity.
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