[from the pressrelease]
“Throughout his career, Twombly sustained an active engagement with drawing, gesture, and making marks on paper. His urgent, meandering lines embody the intimate energies that carry over into his paintings, sculptures, and photographs. Despite their enigmatic qualities, Twombly’s drawings are strikingly articulate in their rhythm, line, and allusions. At once economical and deeply sensual, they contain a timeless language, mediating between ancient and modern culture.
In the 1950s, when Twombly was a young artist, Abstract Expressionism radically disrupted the conventions of easel painting. Although he was a contemporary of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, his work eventually departed from the aims of American postwar abstraction. While prevailing movements of the period, such as Pop art and Minimalism, sought to abandon historical narratives altogether, Twombly, who began to spend time in Europe during this period, directed his focus to classical, modern, and ancient poetic traditions.
One of the earliest works included in the exhibition is from a 1951 sketchbook. Several drawings feature cascades of pencil markings, subtle gradations, erasures, and other evidence of Twombly’s intense contact with the paper. In the late 1950s Twombly moved to Italy, and Volume 2, which documents this period, includes colorful, diagrammatic works such as Ode to Psyche (1960), featuring erotic allusions and jokes while maintaining an abstract charge. Through the 1960s, sensuousness and color pervade the drawings, which eventually evolve into more austere gray and blue “blackboard” works.
Works from later volumes present changing preoccupations in Twombly’s practice and thinking, as he plunged further into poetic and mythic sources. As he continued to work in various locations—including his hometown of Lexington, Virginia, and his final residence in Gaeta, Italy—places, landscapes, and natural forms came to figure prominently in drawings, collages, and watercolor series.”