Friday, July 8, 2011

Cy Twombly Made Drawing an Art Form

Cy Twombly, whose childlike scribbles made him one of the era’s most important artists, died July 2011 of cancer in Rome at the age of 83.

Twombly's work (left) wasn't quite Abstract Expressionism, toyed with Minimalism, and foresaw Conceptualism, He was a contemporary and friends with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. His work was controversial and subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.” He said “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture.”

Twombly's work often had to be defended because it looked like "a child could do it". His drawings were more "marks on paper" than "drawings" as we typically think of them. Helping people understand the subversive and challenging conceptual motivations behind his work is an important path to helping them understand art today.

Twombly's work is important as art because it challenged and subverted commonly held ideas about what art is and helped up-end traditional conceptions of drawing as representation and skilled craftsmanship.

This approach to drawing as "Art" can be taught alongside drawing as visual communication, drawing as design, and drawing as visual culture. It is easy to see the contrast and difference in intent in a drawing by an illustrator like Peter de Seve (right) or a drawing done on a napkin just to capture a thought or idea.

It will be hard to argue that Twombly's drawing is better than the others - they are each done for different purposes and with different intents. Each has a place in our curriculum because our field is the study of visual literacy including visual communication, design, and visual culture as well as fine art.

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