Art AV Club: Cy Twombly

In this Art AV Club we look at the works of Cy Twombly and his mysterious asemic writing paintings and how I use asemic writing in my work.

I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole recently, like you do. I took an online class and one of the bonus materials was a video about Cy Twombly. After I watched it, I wondered if there were videos on other Abstract Expressionists. And just like all trips down the YouTube rabbit hole, I surfaced several hours later awed by the amazing content and looking for snacks.

Social media doesn’t allow for easy sharing of this kind of material. So I decided to make it a recurring feature on my blog. And just like that, Art AV Club was born! On Mondays, I’ll post videos of or about artists. I’ll share a bit about why what they do intrigues me. I hope you’ll go on this journey with me. The enigmatic, American artist Cy Twombly and the video that started this series is my pick this week for Art AV Club.

The nerve of Cy Twombly

I wanted to introduce you to Cy Twombly’s work by way of John Waters enthusiasm for his friend and favorite artist. Don’t miss the tiny story of Waters sandwiched in the middle saying the only art his dad ever made was in response to Cy Twombly’s work.

Prompting Curiosity

This is fantastic overview of Cy Twombly’s work and influences. This is also the video that got me started on this series.

Asemic Writing

I didn’t know who Cy Twombly was until really recently. If he was mentioned in my art history class, it was in passing as a foot note to the Abstract Expressionists.

What fascinates me about his work is his asemic writing which is writing without words or content. It’s shapes that look like handwriting but actually isn’t. I’ve been fascinated by asemic writing for years but didn’t know the term for it until relatively recently. Then in reading about Cy Twombly learned that he served as a cryptographer in the Army and is credited as an innovator of the asemic writing movement in art. Those are so clearly connected for him and I am fascinated by those things coming into play in his work.

I’ve toyed with asemic writing off and on over the years but just in the past few months have really started using it regularly in my work. Asemic writing evokes a mood and allows the viewer to project onto the image what they want. I love this open field for a viewer to make their own interpretations. I am usually trying to evoke a mood but don’t want any actual words clouding what I want the images to say. As a compulsive reader, having actual words on a piece of art is sometimes distracting for me. Writing without content allows me to create a word placeholder that invites the viewers to imagine what it might say.

Go exploring on your own

I hope you enjoyed this Art AV Club. Twombly’s foundation website led me down a twisty path to these two photographs of him taken in 1982 by the fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville for Vogue. In them, he sits in an empty room in a comfy chair gazing at large, cloth-covered paintings on the walls. Once again, shrouded in mystery, he looks simultaneously incredibly alone but also completely content with it.

I wish I could point you to more resources on Cy Twombly but he didn’t give interviews so there are only a handful of photos of him and nearly no written transcripts or video of him talking. He was as mysterious as his work it seems. A cryptographer at his secretive best.

I’ll be bringing another artist next week so check back on Monday. If there’s an artist you’d like my take on, drop me a note and I’ll put them on the list!