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Cy Twombly as sculptor

Though Cy Twombly is best known, perhaps even exclusively so, for his paintings -those ferociously scribbled masterpieces – it’s his sculpture – seven pieces of it – that MoMA has recently acquired and put on exhibition. Almost all of Twombly’s sculptures are made from found materials, scrap wood and plaster that are assembled into composites and then covered in white paint, “unifying the various humble materials and giving them an ethereal presence.” Sure, or he whitewashed them right into the gallery walls and they stand out only because they’re mounted on a pedestal. Yes, his sculptural work possesses an undeniable textural quality – the variations in the monochromatic pieces of wood and fabric are quite lovely up close. From further back, however, they’re about as emotionally exciting as their color palette is varied.

These pieces provide an odd contrast to his drawings and paintings. His famous scratchy, frenetic “Leda and the Swan,” for example, is bursting with energy. It’s frantic, excited, even angry. But his sculptures literally blend into the background. They might show intellectual sophistication with their reference to classical forms, but any fan of Twombly’s who came to love him through his maddeningly indecipherable paintings with their jumpy jolts of color and attention to lines both fine and bold will, no doubt, be less thrilled at this, his other body of work.

Cy Twombly: Sculpture” runs through October 3, 2011.