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Lying Side by Side

Lying Side by Side

Fitting Color to Eros

(p.35) 2 Lying Side by Side
Ribbon of Darkness
Barbara Maria Stafford
University of Chicago Press

Carnal knowledge contravenes body/mind dualism. The repetitive horizontal inlay presents an ancient binding format relying on compressed color as an invitation to sensory response. This essay argues that the variants of artisanal inlay {mosaics, intarsia, grids, even twitter snatches, and pointilliste memes} are chief among erotic types of compositional ordering. These initially hand-made, tightly interlocked, and obsessively repetitive patterns mime an accumulating, self-generating intensity of feelings. It’s notable that supposedly cooly abstract strains of Modern Art seductively explore this self-assembling, pavement-like combinatoric and the sensuousness of its varicolored tesselation. Consider Jasper Johns’ shadow-steeped crazy-work flagstone paths, David Hockney’s wet poolside terrazzo parquet, or Ellsworth Kelly’s ecstatic arrays of spectral light. Here, however, the central focus alights on a more sultry integration of perception, thought, and feeling into a single sensory-motor concept. Neither material symbol nor passionate artifact, but both, Cy Twombly’s sumptuous and worldly Peony Blossom Paintings (2007) presents the lateralized stages of an overwhelming physical relationship. This immersive, large-scale series configures the changing situation of desire from irresistable arousal, to entangled climax, to ebbing flicker, all exhibited by means of a chromatic format characterized by haiku containment.

Keywords:   Carnal Knowledge, Color, Compressive Intensity, Cy Twombly, Eroticism, David Hockney, Inlay Formats, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Pavement Combinatorics

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