I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art recently with my friend Christa. I like to look at art with Christa because she knows so much and has such an interesting perspective (the same reason I like to watch movies, which can be anything from Mad Max to Macbeth, with my husband.)
I’d heard of Cy Twombly, but didn’t know much about him. I still don’t know a whole lot, but I learned that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to one of Twombly’s major works. Fifty Days at Illiam. We saw the series of ten paintings after seeing the fifty-year retrospective of Sean Scully. Scully’s work was technically and artistically brilliant, but I found it lacking in emotion. Perhaps this is just me because apparently, Scully “sees art devoid of emotion as dishonest.” But what is art supposed to mean anyway?
When we entered the room that houses Fifty Days at Illiam, I saw nothing but emotion. We all know the story of the Trojan war and the story of Achilles who was so incensed when Trojan Prince Hector killed his besty Patroclus that he lost all control. Fifty Days at Illiam captures frenzy that led to a chain reaction of violence that ended with eternal night.
How’s that for emotion? Red and black and images that could pass for male genitalia or cannons depending on your point of view. Probably the former since this was the Trojan War and not the War of 1812.
Compare this battle scene with this one. Achilles kills Hector, Paris kills Achilles and havoc is unleashed.
Now I have heard that a lot of people don’t get Cy Twombly. Maybe because some of his materials included crayons, glue, and house paint, and he scribbled across his canvas. People probably say, “I could do that.” Maybe. But they didn’t. Or if they tried, their work didn’t have the color, the emotion, the audacity. John Waters said, “Cy Twombly is my hero because in the beginning his work so infuriated people.” Twombly’s work doesn’t infuriate me. It moves me.