- Cy Twombly
Robert Rauschenberg, Combine Material, Fulton Street Studio,1954
Of all twentieth-century artists, Cy Twombly perhaps most consistently refused to be categorized in terms of movements and styles. Before moving to Italy in 1957, Twombly lived in New York, where he was decisively influenced by his meetings with Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and the composer John Cage, who were pitting their Dada irony against the almost mythical authority of abstract expressionism.
Twombly was initially interested in neglected and seemingly non-artistic objects—the clumsy scribbles of children’s drawings, for example, or anonymous graffiti on the city streets, or drawings with clear messages placed on the walls of buildings. In the work of Robert Rauschenberg, with whom Twombly was working closely at this time, everyday motifs are also prominent. In Rauschenberg’s Combines, painting is increasingly replaced by pure material—found objects, trash like cardboard and advertising, car tires, and all kinds of other objects from the streets of New York.
Twombly often took a look at his own paintings through the medium of photography. The motif here is Robert Rauschenberg’s studio in Fulton Street in New York, which the two artists were sharing after their long journey to study art through Italy and North Africa. Robert Rauschenberg, Combine Material, Fulton Street Studio,1954 shows Rauschenberg‘s materials spread over the studio floor. The camera perspective is dramatic, with the camera low down and bright light breaking in through the window. This is not a snapshot but a photo with a very calculated effect, made to look as if an explosion might have thrown the trash in through the window. The ordinary objects of everyday life—life itself—force their way into the studio of the artist. Here the window, like the white background in Twombly‘s paintings and Rauschenberg‘s assemblages, has a potential that is either already activated or can be activated at any time. Art critic Leo Steinberg wrote about Rauschenberg: "What I think, he invented was a pictorial surface that let the world in again.”