Victory; conceived 1987, cast 2005; by Cy Twombly (© Cy Twombly Foundation)
Cy Twombly: Sculptures
September 24, 2013 - Spring 2014Taking cues from the Dada movement and from the work of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, Cy Twombly (American, 1928– 2011) created poetic objects whose serene white surfaces and allusive forms seem to recall remote worlds of myth and the ancient past. After reaching an indisputable maturity in his early sculpture, created from 1946 to 1959, Twombly returned to working in three dimensions in the mid-1970s and continued to cast new works up until his passing in 2011. When asked shortly before his death whether any of his sculptures might be considered companions to his masterful series of ten paintings Fifty Days at Iliam of 1978 (installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1989), the artist responded by choosing a selection of extraordinary bronzes, five of which are on view in this installation. Like Fifty Days at Iliam (on view in galleries 184 and 185 in the main building), which takes as its subject the Trojan War of Homer’s Iliad, the sculptures that Twombly selected for this installation also refer to the circumstances of an ancient fight. They evoke chariots, sitting still or ferociously charging; the rising sun before the conflict; and the sunset, which falls equally on the victorious and the defeated. Their varied forms seem to combine the triangular shapes of the simplified chariots of the Trojan warriors and the phallic thrust of Achilles in Fifty Days at Iliam paintings. The violence of Twombly’s sculptures is countered by their pale, irregular surfaces, which seem weathered and washed, as if they have long confronted the elements. Yet the focus of these sculptures is not just one war in particular, but any war— as they seem to powerfully embody the impulse to overcome, obliterate, and cancel.