new-york

Cy Twombly

Hirschl & Adler Modern

This was Cy Twombly seen at his most extroverted, but, as always, with a touch of the reclusive. The familiar scrawl, with its mix of unconscious touch and conscious script, still exists as the sediment of memory, however panoramic it may become. John Graham once said, “The great mystery is: where ends the stroke and where begins the caress?” In Twombly the mystery is that the caress can never be more than a stroke: one can print "Ovid,” but the poet is dead, and one can’t bring him back with the flick of a pencil. One can make poetry out of death, out of one’s musings and jottings to oneself about the past glory of Rome, but it is not the same as actively embracing that glory, which is now nothing but poetry.

There’s a book of essays on John Ashbery called Beyond Amazement (1980). I’m happy to say that Twombly still creates the amazement of intimate touch, still the most astonishing of

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