back issues

28:sound links

 Issues earlier than this please go to our ISSUU site

Entries in graffiti (5)


Krauss, Twombly and graffiti, 2000

Coronation of Sesostris, panel 8, 2000. / Acrylic, crayon, and pencil on canvas. with erasures

A dandy piece by Rosalind Krauss on reading, or not reading, Twombly.  It was written for Artforum in 1994 about the catalogue raisonne of Twombly's works, overseen by Heiner Bastian. Krauss writes about the various projects that assign meaning to Twombly's paintings from those who take the classical references, such as Virgil scrawled across a canvas, as evidence of Twombly's classical humanism and a deep reading of the deep past, to Barthes, who throws all that out and speaks against analogy in Twombly's mark making, where 'Virgil' is a citation running against any sort of classical reference, and is instead a position, modern, cultural, irresponsible.  

Krauss writes instead about graffiti — 'performative, suspending representation in favour of action', which is what Action Painting wanted: all emotion and gesture.  She writes that 'graffiti's character is the strike against form, ensuring a field in which the only way the image of the body can survive is a part-object, a concatenation of obscene emblemata...'  There are marks, but they aren't symbols, ciphers or citations, rather they are fragments that protest the self-reflexivity of his Abstract Expressionist peer group, Pollock, de Kooning and Motherwell.

Twombly has a writing hand.  The work from the 1950s, yesterday's Poems to the Sea, is perhaps a protest against the vigorous, obliterating masculinity of Motherwell, but it became how he made his marks.  By time he had appointed Bastian to assemble essays for the catalogue raisonne, the summary of an artist's life, he quite liked the idea that he was a channel to Apollo and Dionysus.  One might, towards the end of one's career find it more noble than being a thirty-year old artist working through artistic differences with one's friends in New York.

Rosalind Krauss, always true to the work, restates the critic's responsibility to make an independent reading. I love her for this. 

I looked up Sesostris, whose coronation we are presented with, above, and found this sculpture, below.  
I would say that in Twombly's Sesostris we are looking at a crown. A fragment of a sculpture.  Sesostris III has departed.

Rosalind Krauss. 'Cy was here; Cy's up'. Artforum International Magazine, September 1994


Berger, Twombly and graffiti, 1959

Cy Twombly. Poems to the Sea, Rome 1959. Sheet 16 of 24. / Oil, crayon, pastel and coloured pencil on paper, 12 ½ x 12 1/4 in. (31.7 x 31 cm.)

Language is always an abbreviation.

John Berger, 'Post-Scriptum'. Audible Silence: Cy Twombly at Daros.  Exhibition catalogue, Loewenbraeu-Areal in Zurich, 2002


grafitti 2

grafitti, Southbank Centre, London

I published a photo of one of these mushroom columns during my concrete discussion last year, which covered issues of formwork, brutalism and transparent construction methods.  The historic value of brutalism, erupting in England over the demolition of Peter and Alison Smithson's Robin Hood Gardens, has reached this brutalism backwater, where the only truly béton brut building we have in this small city, the Planetarium, is never discussed, but dreary copies of copies of le Corbusier are.  It is as if theoretical debates are heard as murmurings from distant stars – misheard actually and applied to completely inappropriate pre-cast concrete-panelled buildings.  

The photo above, of a kind of grafitti paradise, says nothing about the architecture, its function or ownership (so this isn't political protest) but does say something about the identification of concrete surfaces as durable canvas and about gaps in surveillance.  Elaborate wall paintings take time; time is allowed here.  It isn't the grafittiists that disrespect the buildings, but the owners of the buildings themselves who are responsible for their care. 


I learnt this from crime...

'I learnt this from crime' Soflies, Melbourne

yes, it is stylised, yes it is an elaborate tag, but it is also still writing of a kind. It reminds me of Nude Descending a Staircase, the fractured edges of each mark, the haze of intentions falling off us as we move.    


MacLean's method 2

On the list of stats for this website, a post I did on MacLean's compendiums a couple of years ago gets a surprising number of visits, every week, week after week.  I actually found a compendium in a box I was sorting through after the flood, not mine, but my brother's, from Grade 5. 

It starts with the correct way to sit, to place your arm, to angle the paper.  In fact the whole compendium is not just about the correct way to write, but how to conduct yourself as a good person, how to write nice thank you letters, get well letters, all in a beautifully smooth hand. If someone hadn't commented on MacLean himself, that he appeared at schools and did magic tricks, I would find this sort of teaching unbearable.  As it was, out in Victoria, he never came to our school and we were left with the rules.  I was an earnest student, tried hard to have perfect writing.  My brother clearly approached it all with a sense of irony.

It looks sort of asemic to me.