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Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
HOMAGE TO CHILLIDA
Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled

Details
Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
Untitled
incised with the artist's initials and numbered 'C.T. 1/4' and stamped with the foundry mark 'FONDERIA CAVALLARI ROMA' (lower edge)
bronze
22 7/8 x 7 7/8 x 8¼in. (58 x 20 x 21cm.)
Executed in 2003, this work is number one from an edition of four
Provenance
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006.
Exhibited
Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Homenaje a Chillida, 2006.

Lot Essay

'Bronze unifies the thing. It abstracts the forms from the material. People want to know about what the material constituents are; it helps them identify the work with something. But I want each sculpture to be seen as a whole, as a sculpture'
(C. Twombly, quoted in D. Sylvester, 'The World is Light', 1997, in N. del Roscio (ed.), Writings on Twombly, Munich 2002, p. 276).


Untitled is a moving sculpture made by Cy Twombly in 2003 that appears to serve as a kind of monument or memorial to the art of sculpture and to the innate poetry that this medium, shared by Twombly and Chillida, is often able to express.

Cast in bronze in an edition of four, Twombly's sculpture takes the form of a stratified tower of disparate architectonic forms - all made from found objects - that collectively build to a peak in the form of a large and seemingly petrified flower blooming at the top. This use of a flower - a fragile, organic and also poetic form - seemingly born from an architectonic base, is a common motif in Twombly's sculpture expressive of eternal cycles of death and renewal. It is also often used by him, as in the case of this work, to articulate the dramatic contrast between the fleeting temporality of life and the comparative permanence of art - art being a language or form able to speak throughout the ages. Most of all however, the flower blooming from a seemingly inanimate stone or metal base is an expression of the extraordinary transformative power of sculpture. It is a poetic visualisation of this medium's unique ability to translate ordinary objects and forms into something completely different. To metamorphose them from one state of being into another in the manner of so many of the ancient Greco-Roman myths, and then, ultimately, to render this entire transformatory process as a united whole in one solid, durable material so that it forms a timeless and archetypal image replete with an innately human sense of temporal and existential mystery.

As in his paintings, but employing wholly different means, Twombly's sculptures appear to speak of antiquity and of the Arcadian mysteries of the past, transmitting themselves through the eternal power of art into the realm of the present. Looking in part like relics from a formerly undiscovered ancient Mediterranean culture or like archeological artifacts that appear to carry an ancient truth through time within themselves, these sculptures make use of a language of fragments. Untitled appears at first, for instance, like an awkward and composite ancient column whose combined layers of different fragment-like forms stuck together with generous layers of plaster betray a crude sequence of different ages and architectural stages of construction. A sequential sense of the passage of time is invoked by this vertical piling up of these differing, fragmentary and seemingly stone-like forms. In reality, of course, each of these forms was a found-object that Twombly has assembled in a manner that derives from the practice of his sculptural mentor, Kurt Schwitters. These, he has subsequently bestowed with an architectonic quality by covering in plaster, white paint and casting in bronze. 'White paint is my marble.' Twombly once said of his sculptural practice' (C. Twombly, quoted in Cy Twombly - The Sculpture, exh. cat. Basel, 2000, p. 49). It lends his work a unifying and distinctly Mediterranean-looking light, while his frequent decision to have his work cast in bronze serves a similar unifying and timeless purpose.

The ancient sculptural practice of bronze casting plays on the innate fragmentary nature of antiquity, in both the context of our fragmented understanding of it and also the well-established Greco-Roman tradition of making copies after lost originals. In addition, as Twombly himself pointed out, in purely artistic terms, bronze-casting also helps in the metamorphosing of his found objects into new and surprising forms. 'Bronze unifies the thing. It abstracts the forms from the material. People want to know about what the material constituents are; it helps them identify the work with something. But I want each sculpture to be seen as a whole, as a sculpture' (C. Twombly, quoted in D. Sylvester, 'The World is Light', 1997, in N. del Roscio (ed.), Writings on Twombly, Munich 2002, p. 276).

In this way, the semi-organic and columnar Untitled becomes a unified stele-like form seemingly embodying a progression of human history through time as well as a multitude of other associations. Uniting opposites such as ancient and modern and solid and ethereal form as well as notions of stasis and growth, the organic and the inorganic, it is a work that asserts itself as an artifact beyond time - one that is ultimately evocative of the constructive nature of sculpture and its power to drive inanimate form towards a poetic expression of life. And it is in this respect that this work is a sculptural form expressive of Paul Klee's famous definition of art as a fruit driving itself into being through the tree-like entity of man. Interestingly, David Sylvester recalled this definition of Klee's when writing about Twombly's sculptural practice in 1997. It is a definition wholly applicable to the sentiments Twombly has later expressed in this sculpture appropriately dedicated to Eduardo Chillida.

'Artistic creation, says Klee, is analogous to the growth of a tree. The artist, observing the world around him, discovers in the passing stream of images and experiences a sense of order and a direction. He corresponds to the tree's roots. The sap rising from the roots flows through the artist, the tree's trunk, to his eye, and the force of the flow impels him to form the tree's crown, the work of art. The crown does not reflect the appearance of the root; existing in a different element, it has to have its own kind of form. The artist's role is to gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He is there neither to serve nor to rule, but to transmit' (D. Sylvester, 'The World is Light', 1997, in N. del Roscio (ed.), Writings on Twombly, Munich 2002, p. 279).

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