The inmates of the artistic hothouse that was New York in the 1950's were energetic, noisy, narcissistic and in a few cases highly talented individuals. Sometime in the mid-fifties a coterie of gallery owners, investment bankers and curators on the make got the keys to the asylum and let the inmates out, undreamed of wealth was their prize. When I sit to put down a few thoughts I am always conscious that I might be going on a rant so I feel I must preface this piece by saying that I am a great fan of the New York school, Johns, Rauschenberg, Pollock. but with all groups and movements there are those who ride on the bus without a ticket. They are the opportunists who hang in the right bars or climb in the right beds, it's the way of the world. In the foundry when bronze is poured from the crucible into the mould the impurities in the metal the dross or slag which gathers on the surface of the molten bronze are held back to prevent impurities getting into the mould and marring the cast. It appears now that everyone wants to do the pouring but few want to deal with the dross. Where am I going with this, Cy Twombly is where I am going. Twombly is everywhere labelled as a hugely influential artist. This expression should read like a health warning when applied to artists, it gives the impression that all influence is a good and beneficial, it isn't.
Running naked through a shopping precinct with a feather up your bottom could be described as an act of self expression, it could be an influential event for many, how you would measure it's beneficial influence could be problematic. If our naked runner was declaiming Shakespeare as he waggled his feather about we might feel inclined to applaud, admire the choice of text, the angle of the feather, the jetes, the pirouettes or we might just call security! Twombly demonstrated to us the importance of scribble, any child development practitioner will second that notion, then came the daub and the dribble and the scratch and the scrape and the unintelligent scrawl.
Marginally interesting you might think but when the images become linked to the Greek myths, the works of Homer, the poetry of Rilke and John Keats, they acquire a whole new status, they become intellectually invested and consequently influential, more pretention more profit. More importantly they become mega investment opportunities, no one held back the dross, no one called for security. In all honesty I am not as concerned by the works as I should be, what get's me is their legacy, their far from benign influence, the dross that no one calls out that fills our galleries and allows those who didn't buy a ticket to run amok on the upper deck of the bus. A bit of rant then!
AGED AND AWKWARD