Critics’ Picks

Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City), 1968, oil-based house paint, wax crayon on canvas 68 x 85".


Cy Twombly

Ca' Pesaro
Santa Croce 2070
May 6–September 13

Cy Twombly was the greatest American painter of the twentieth century, and the greatest painter after Picasso, period. Such seemingly hyperbolic assertions are necessary, and even understated, in that they can only infer the myriad ways in which Twombly’s century could not wholly contain him. His works are as enduringly elegant in their wretchedness as ever, and thus an exhibition of the artist’s work, no matter how large or small, is always a welcome event.

This current one, housed in the airy rooms of a baroque marble palace on the Grand Canal, brings together a career-spanning selection of the artist’s paintings, works on paper, and a sculpture, with the earliest work dating from the 1950s. Among the flashier highlights is the large triptych Ilium (One Morning Ten Years Later), 1964–2000. What appears to be its pasty foundation is, upon inspection, just thin enough to hint at but not fully reveal the dark muck of underpainting. On the topmost layer, the triumphant anarchy of Twombly’s graffiti-esque scrawls reigns, resembling the inner door of a bathroom stall frequented exclusively by poets.

Fans will be equally pleased to see some of the artist’s greatest hits—such as a large four-panel painting from his 2008 “Rose” series—as well as a selection of rarely exhibited items, including an untitled series of hot-pink and violet acrylic dabs on paper dating from 2005. Even one of his early so-called chalkboard paintings, Untitled (New York City), 1968, is on display, this one comprising a series of long skinny cursive S’s and 8s—show-off-ish, sure, but also dazzling in its curled elegance.