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Robert Morris

Cy Twombly, Lepanto VII, 2001, acrylic and wax crayon on canvas, 7' 1 1/4“ x 10' 2 3/4”. From the twelve-panel series “Lepanto,” 2000–2001.

HE TOOK FROM THE DEAD. The long-dead ancients. He was always grabbing for a reference. A real necrophiliac. But a sly one. A shy grave robber. Digging down to mine our heritage, our Western lode as scribbled on the wall of a public toilet. But wasn’t the gesture a little fey, considering the calculated spontaneity of those smears and scribbles? You could say he got there in a studious fashion. Arrived after a suitable apprenticeship, after endless hours of in-school penmanship. Something like the Palmer penmanship method. (What the old ones like me remember—nobody writes by hand anymore.) All those ovals of imitation chalk on imitation dusty blackboards. Swirl after swirl of smoothly connected ovals, all on the line. Whose shoulders was he standing on when he wrote/painted, or was it painted/wrote? The smears came later. Those oh-so-controlled and knowing smears and blobs of

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