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Untitled

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About the item

"Cy Twombly tries to shatter form as well as its concomitant intellectual and narrative history in a kind of relativism, reducing it to a rationality of 'black and white' that is at the same time the structural sum of all movement." (Heiner Bastian, ed., Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume III 1966-1971, Munich, 1994, p. 23).  Pulsating with a tangible kinetic energy only felt in the most stunning of Cy Twombly’s Blackboard compositions, Untitled, 1967, is a spectacular work on paper from the artist’s corpus. A tempest of graphic loops, gathered into ten semi-determinate horizontal bands, urgently courses across the work’s surface, covering it entirely in a rolling sweep of alternately expanding and contracting lasso-like marks. Twombly’s enigmatic line, here dynamically scrawled in layers of accumulating density, immediately implicates the formality of typography whilst resolutely denying accessible legibility. In the present work, the artist reduced his forms to their most elegant and elementary essence, inscribing his surface with a sublime visual poetry. The resultant composition embraces an unremittingly free association between painting and language, becoming a distinctly lyrical form of abstraction and a summation of Robert Pincus-Witten’s declaration that  "Handwriting has become for Twombly the means of beginning again, of erasing the Baroque culmination of the painting of the early 1960s...beautiful writing has been submerged within a Jasper Johns-like gray field. Put bluntly, it has been drowned in a schoolmaster's blackboard." (Robert Pincus-Witten, "Learning to Write," 1968, in Nicola del Roscio, ed., Writings on Cy Twombly, Munich, 2002, p. 56)\nIn 1966, the year directly preceding this work’s execution, Twombly relinquished all claims to the emotive power of color, a force that had characterized much of his earlier work, to embark upon a series of matte grey canvases and works on paper in the pursuit of a more expressive clarity. In the present work, Twombly built up his ground through successive applications of tonally different gray oil paint. Before the surface dried, he incised his coiled registers into the light gray pigment, revealing a darker gray layer underneath and bestowing upon his work a distinct three-dimensionality that defies preconceived notions of what a work on paper can achieve. Amongst the waves of engraved paint float islands of thick impasto which imbue Untitled with a further enhanced sculptural quality. A sublimely lyrical paean to an absolutely central theme of Twombly’s oeuvre – the unadulterated confluence of media and subject – Untitled, 1967 is a mature exemplar of Frank O’Hara’s description of the correlation formed between the ground and the motif  – and between painting and drawing – in the artist’s earliest abstractions: “this new development makes the painting itself the form.” (Frank O’Hara, “Cy Twombly,” ARTnews, vol. 53, no. 9, January 1955, p. 46) The all-over spiraling impressions in Untitled cover the entire surface and triumphantly undermine any preoccupation with a central compositional motif or even the diversion of specific subject matter, while the act of erasure and over-drawing dramatically destabilizes the intended legibility of handwriting and the cipher of language held therein. Thus, as Twombly’s line repeatedly nears the precipice of lexical recognition, ultimately any prescribed attributions of sign referents are overruled by the physical properties of pure form.\nThe process of drawing for Twombly embodied the paradox of time and the convergence of many seemingly dissimilar elements into a single composition disclosing the intricacies of his profound visionary awareness. In Untitled, the freedom of movement of course evokes the liberal energy of Jackson Pollock’s action painting, while the all-over but low-pressure imagery is similar to Jasper Johns’ gray paintings. As viewers we are seduced, by what is perceived as a stark reduction of the painted surface to its most elemental form, into the hidden complexity and depth of the image. Unlike the static, semi-figurative black and white paintings of Twombly's formative years in the early 1950s, the inimitable gray works of the 1960s saw the centrifugal energy and erotic charge of Twombly's Baroque-inspired early 1960s paintings transferred into a rhythmic discourse of mood and movement. Despite a residual yearning to decipher the written marks that describe Untitled as an inherently human need, Twombly's visual language has neither syntax nor logic. With the unsophisticated rawness of illegible graffiti Twombly invents a transcendent new visual language to interrogate both the most elementary and the most sophisticated concerns posed by the genesis of creativity. Teeming with pure artistic brilliance, Untitled stands as tangible testimony to Cy Twombly’s staggering innovation and peerless abstract aesthetic.\nSigned and dated NYC Feb 67 on the reverse 
US
NY, US
US

notes

Please note that this work is included in Volume 4 of the "Cy Twombly Drawings Catalogue Raisonne" by Nicola del Roscio as catalogue number 162 on page 140. Please note additional exhibition information for this work as follows: New York, Richard Gray Gallery, Richard Gray Gallery: Forty Years, September - October 2003

medium

Oil on paper

creator

Cy Twombly

condition

This work is in excellent condition. The paint surface is stable and secure. The work consists of a folded sheet with the top fold secured to the primary sheet. The work is hinged at intervals to ragboard and framed in a wood frame painted white under Plexiglas. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

20 3/4 x 22 1/2 in. 52.7 x 57.1 cm.

exhibition

New York, Richard Gray Gallery, Richard Gray Gallery: Forty Years, September - October 2003

literature

Nicola del Roscio, Cy Twombly Drawings, Catalogue Raisonné Volume 4: 1964-1969, Munich, 2014, cat. no. 162, p. 140, illustrated in color

provenance

Mr. and Mrs. Francois de Menil, New York Sotheby's, New York, November 10, 1988, Lot 55 Fumi International, Inc., Tokyo Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1998

signedDate

Signed and dated NYC Feb 67 on the reverse 

consignmentDesignation

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1928 - 2011


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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