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I finally made it down to the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I must admit I'm ashamed I didn't get my lazy self down there sooner. What an incredible space! Next time you find yourself with a few hours to spend in downtown Chicago, it is definitely worth a visit at the very least to marvel at Renzo Piano's beautiful architectural design.


The new wing of the museum launched with a special exhibit of Cy Twombly's most recent work, entitled Cy Twombly: The Natural World, Selected Works 2000-2007. The exhibit is broken up into thematic sections that reflect motifs in Twombly's work that have appeared since 2000; motifs that are an elegant and harmonious departure from the violent scribbles of the 50s and 60s that the 82-year-old artist is best known for. 


Flora, the first thematic section of the exhibit explores floral motifs in Twombly's work through painting and sculpture. Rich, vibrant canvases in magenta and violet are tastefully echoed by the few sculptural pieces in the gallery. Twombly invites us here to examine flora as texture and color with thick acrylic paint blobs that ooze out of the two-dimensional surface of the canvas. From Flora, we move to the next set of galleries which contain ephemeral sea foam green paintings juxtaposed with darker, more mysterious earthy brown squiggle paintings that represent Twombly's attempt to capture the moody sea. Like in Flora, this next thematic exploration is evocative more than descriptive in the way it invites the viewer to imagine nature not as something to be catalogued and described, but as something that is inherent and felt.


Perhaps the most stunning part of the exhibit is one of the final thematic rooms containing Twombly's monumental Peony Blossom Paintings. Extending nearly from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, these paintings envelope the viewer in lush saffron and crimson peony blooms. Haiku inscribed in the artists' hand on some of the paintings link the breathtaking flowers to the Japanese idea of the peony as capable of invoking aesthetic contemplation in the viewer. Twombly's haiku also invites the viewer to pacifism and pleasure in the eye of war and combat.


Curator James Rondeau does well in providing very few placards and sparse wall text, allowing the viewer to come away from this exhibit with their own impression of Twombly's most recent works. Indeed, Rondeau truly allows these exquisite works to speak volumes for themselves.


 

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