As a tribute to the recently deceased artist, the Centre for Fine Arts
is turning the spotlight on a less familiar aspect of his oeuvre. The exhibition includes more than 100 dryprint Polaroid photographs (selected by Twombly himself), along with a selection of other works by Twombly and a film portrait by Tacita Dean.
Cy Twombly (who was born in Lexington in 1928 and died in Rome in 2011) was one of the most important US artists of his generation. He made his name with large-scale abstract paintings whose free form and spontaneous dynamism recall calligraphy and graffiti. In his work Twombly often referred to the myths of Classical Greek and Roman Antiquity, to literature and to art history.
The Cy Twombly: Photographs 1951-2010 exhibition focuses on a less familiar aspect of Twombly's oeuvre: his photographic work. The photographs are an addition to the artist's creative world and throw new light on it. At the request of the publishers Schirmer/Mosel, Twombly selected more than 100 never previously published Polaroid photographs for a catalogue that was published just before his death on 5 July 2011. This selection is the subject of a travelling exhibition that has already been seen in Germany at the Museum Brandhorst (in Munich) and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (in Siegen). At the Centre for Fine Arts the exhibition is being expanded, in collaboration with Dr. Hubertus von Amelunxen, who wrote an essay for the Twombly catalogue and who has made a selection for BOZAR of drawings and paintings by Twombly that reveal in greater depth the interplay of lines and light in his work. In addition, the exhibition is complemented by the screening of Tacita Dean's intimate film portrait "Edwin Parker" (which takes its name from Twombly's official given names).
Twombly and photography
Twombly took up photography back in his student days in the 1950s and continued to take photographs throughout his career. It was only in the 1990s, however, that he went public with his photographic work in gallery exhibitions and publications.
All the photographs in the exhibition were taken with a Polaroid camera, enlarged, printed using a special kind of dryprint, and reproduced in limited editions. This procedure, developed by Twombly himself, gives the photographs a hazy glow and a coarse grain. Twombly further reinforced this impression of blurring by playing with light and shade, by overexposure and sophisticated colour saturation, and by employing extreme close-ups. The lack of definition gives his photographs a certain indefinable quality and a poetic dimension. Our attention is no longer drawn to the subject, but to the texture of the picture. In a certain sense, Twombly operates like the pictorialists: his photographs look almost like paintings in which light is captured in brushstrokes.
The subjects of his Polaroid photographs are extremely diverse. There are traditional still lifes with tulips, lemon leaves, and angel trumpets, alongside photographs of temples and atmospheric landscapes. Twombly surprises the viewer with intimate images of everyday objects such as his slippers, a detail from a painting, his brushes, a snapshot of his studio, etc.
The photographs are fascinating because they throw new light on Twombly's creative spirit and visual language. These intangible, fragile images are permeated by the same themes that inspired the artist's paintings, drawings, sculptures, and graphic art. The atmospheric colours and diffuse motifs of his photographs are an unexpected addition to his creative universe. Twombly's oeuvre, moreover, is all about light and is photography not the medium of light par excellence?
In the course of the exhibition circuit visitors can see an intimate film portrait of Twombly, Edwin Parker by the British artist Tacita Dean. The film takes its title from Twombly's official given names ("Cy" is a traditional nickname in his family). The publicity-shy Twombly had become a mythical figure in the world of contemporary art. Dean's film offers a rare insight into the artist's life. The camera follows Twombly as he looks at his pictures in his studio, reads letters, looks through the louvres at the traffic in the city of his birth, or sits around a table with old friends and orders a meal. Tacita Dean is a British contemporary artist, known above all for her films. Her latest work to date is FILM, a 35 mm film continuously projected on a 13-metre-high monolith, which can be seen in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern until 11 March 2012.