Not Mere Projection

Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly, by Joshua Rivkin. Melville House. 496 pages. $32.

Cy Twombly: Fifty Days at Iliam, edited by Carlos Basualdo. Yale University Press. 168 pages. $35.

I  first saw Cy Twombly’s paintings as a teenager, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Fifty Days at Iliam, his ten-painting cycle inspired by the Iliad, occupies a large gallery all its own. I remember, on that visit, being thrilled and scandalized by Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés, which involves looking through a crack in the wall at a disturbingly lifelike naked woman sprawled on the ground, and feeling respectful toward, if secretly baffled by, the works of Jackson Pollock and the other stalwarts of Abstract Expressionism.