a visit to AIC, Cy Twombly and Joan Mitchell

My own paintings have shifted towards that of landscapes, places remembered and depicted as abstract topographical maps. Upon my own painting I have been researching the work of Joan Mitchell and Cy Twombly, whose paintings though vastly different in content are both equally expressive and have certain parallels in style. For instance Mitchell's 1955 paintng entitled No. 5 and Twombly's 1962 Leda and the Swan. (the title in Twombly's piece I assume is taken from the Greek Myth of Zeus appearing to Leda in the form of a swan, to seduce her.) Twombly unlike Mitchell uses line as a way of writing and creating a language. (Text often incorporated into his canvas --the lower right hand corner shows text scrawled.) Twombly is known for, and shows well in this piece his use of thick, frenzied, energetic line work. Expressively intertwined, vaguely recognizable images appear here and there. And the luscious pigments and graphic contrasts of lights and darks further this idea of seduction. Mitchell's No. 5 is as expressive and her use of color notes appreciation of beauty or that of nostalgia, a portrait of a place conjured or remembered. Her visual language is often more poetic, more about the brush stroke and quality there of.

Joan Mitchell, No. 5, 1955, Oil on canvas, 69 x 68 inches

Cy Twombly, Leda & the Swan, 1962, oil, crayon, pencil on canvas, 75 x 78 3/4 inches

Cy Twombly Untitled III, 2005-2007, Acrylic on Wood Panel 243.8 x 365.8 cm

Cy Twombly, Untitled 2001, Acrylic, wax crayon, pencil, and collage 48 3/4 x 39 in. (124 x 99 cm)

Cy Twombly, Untitled 2001, Acrylic, wax crayon, and collage 48 3/4 x 39 1/4 in. (124 x 99.5 cm)

Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers 1968-1969

Joan Mitchell, City Landscape, 1955

I know I have posted and written about this painting by Joan Mitchell before, but I keep coming back to it. Entitled City Landscape, this piece is a fantastic all-over painting, a style in which Mitchell is known for using in her mature career--much like that of Jackson Pollock. It is energetic, and chaotic, alive and pulsating, conflicted and anxious much like the city itself. Iconic in it's replete style, the chaotic, chromatic center is reminiscent of the hub of the city's downtown and the subdued more neutral, monotone blocks of color that outline the perimeter of the city are like the Suburbs; the outskirts---quieter, slower less exciting blandness that exists much like the colors themselves. It has been noted that to Mitchell white represented despair, loneliness and emptiness. The grey, in this painting represents these ideas to me.

As I viewed City Landscape at The Art Institute of Chicago yesterday, for the third time, I noticed that perhaps Mitchell did not prime her canvas but applied her oils directly to the linen. In City Landscape, it is markably noticeable how one can visibly see the layers; what came first and how each layer lays on or next to another color. Not necessarily competing to be noticed but each on it's own individual path, passing the other colors in haste. The size and expression of Mitchell's brush strokes are also noticeable and something to pay attention to when studying this piece.

*Also noteable is the placement in the Gallery next to DeKooning's 1950 painting Excavation and across from Jackson Pollock's 1953 Grey Rainbow. I really like how this room was curated. Excavation does remind me a little of Mitchell's 1951
painting Cross Section of a Bridge.
Dekooning's Excavation 1950

Jackson Pollock, Grey Rainbow, 1953
Herron ClothierComment