25 September – 16 November 1997
Richard Tuttle came to the forefront of contemporary American art in the mid-1960s. His work has been seen in international exhibitions such as the 1986 Skulptur Projecte Münster, the 1995 Carnegie International, and most recently in Germano Celant's Future Present Past exhibition at the 1997 Venice Biennale. Tuttle's exhibition at the Art Gallery of York University is the first in-depth presentation of his work in Canada. The exhibition will provide an overview of the artist's career, and includes important early work such as his Cloth and Paper Octagons and the remarkable Wire Pieces, which the artists will reproduce for this exhibition.
Although his art continues to be associated with Minimalism and that single creative moment of the late 1960s, it is now evident that Richard Tuttle's art differs radically form the work of his Minimalist peers. Avoiding their interest in logic, systems and geometry, Tuttle tends toward a more personal, intuitive approach to his art. He has always maintained a rapport with chaos and anti-form, parameters that fall outside of the aesthetics of Minimalism.
The uncommon, spontaneity and slightness of Tuttle's work, at times approaching invisibility, is one of its hallmarks.
In my work, the scale is more important than the size. The small size is a way of dramatizing that is scale that's most interesting. I feel that the only real scale we will ever know is our own scale, the scale of a human being. Unlike the Renaissance that made the human scale a kind of virtue, I don't find it a virtue. I find it is the only thing we have, that's why my work is generally directly connected to it. --Richard Tuttle
The absence of a specific measure or proportion in art today--Tuttle's contention with this fundamental aporia within modernity is what gives his art its unusual power and relevance.
Throughout his career, Tuttle's work has literally and philosophically expanded the boundaries of art. He has tapped new possibilities to challenge the conventional categories of drawing, sculpture, painting, and their relationship to one another. Tuttle's Cloth Octagons, for example, confound the issues of two- and three-dimensionality. The contours of the dyed and wrinkled shapes of unstretched canvas are emphasized by their handsewn double hems. One can read the octagonal shapes as drawing, with the emphasis on their linear edges, or as painting with their palpably covered surfaces. The roles that the hems and gravity play in determining form and creating space, however, force one to look upon the works as three-dimensional objects as well. Nailed to the wall and hanging in space, they appear vulnerable, fragile and slightly wounded.
Tuttle's cloth works were followed by a series of ethereal, colourless paper polygons which, when installed in the gallery, appear to physically vanish or melt into the walls. Cut out by hand from off-white paper and pasted directly onto a white wall, the work can be read as part of the wall or the wall can be read as part of the work, depending upon the angle of light and the position of the viewer. On the one hand, the shadows that appear at the edges assert the "objectness" of the piece; on the other, the work seems to exist only as the line of its delicate edges.
In the early 1970s Tuttle produced a series of Wire Pieces that elude reference to sculptural tradition insofar as they shun any physical presence of a volume mass. Neither sculptures nor drawings, they nevertheless take these two forms into account. The artist begins by drawing a pencil line on the wall, following the line with a stretched segment of wire. The wire is then twisted between nails or left dangling by them in the wall. In this way, pencil, line, wire, and shadow all fuse and interact.
Since then Richard Tuttle has developed a variety of seemingly off-hand yet complex, delicate assemblages and hybrid creations comprising simple, unpretentious materials such as styrofoam, paper, coloured pencil, plywood, nails and cloth. He does not bestow upon these works a craftsman' precision. They sometimes appear distressed and wounded because of their many gouges, chips, and splinters. The works remain small, celebrating fragility, lightness, and human vulnerability.
The present exhibition intends to examine, articulate, and celebrate Richard Tuttle's singular achievements and to identify the continuing and, indeed, increasing relevance his art today.
An artist's book has been produced to accompany the exhibition. We gratefully acknowledge the support of The Canada