Cy Twombly - Natural History | Bastian

I just can’t with him. I’ve tried. Cy Twombly on a large scale hasn’t worked. I’ve trudged through a (huge) retrospective at the Pompidou, trying to find something, anything, in his mannered scribbles, his big messy flowers, his enormous, aggressive, pompous drips. I’ve wheeled around the Lepanto series in its purpose-built room at the top of the Brandhorst Museum in Munich: appreciating the lovely colours and ultra-luxe surroundings, but just, somehow, failing to connect with what was on the wall.

What about a smaller scale, stripped down Twombly? Now in London, there’s this tiny show in a one-room, recently opened, starry (the debut exhibition was Warhol Polaroids) gallery.

natural history Natural History II

There are two series on show: both named Natural History. The eighteen small prints - one series mainly showing leaves, another mainly showing mushrooms - offer a neat recap of many of the features of Twombly’s work I find most annoying. Inscrutable classical references! (This time to Pliny the Elder.) Childlike drawings! (Twombly’s leaves are featureless, swirly green ovals.) Numbers and words everywhere! Total lack of humour! This artist makes a narrow-minded, “child could do this”, reactionary of me; this time, I just gave into it.

My notes from the show are pretty self explanatory, and track closely to my doubtless narrow minded and ignorant inability to tune into Twombly’s batsqueak frequency:

  • “I don’t get ittttt.”
  • “Is he famous because of his handwriting?”
  • “His mushrooms look like the flowers I guess.”

I don’t really have anything more to add. I”m not beyond hope. I’ll keep trying, given Twombly’s continued galactically huge reputation. There’s something there. There must be. What is it?

Cy Twombly - Natural History is at Bastian (London). April 26 - June 15 2019.