Although often associated with the post-minimalist tendency, Richard Tuttle is in fact one of the most disconcerting and hard to pin-down American artists of the last fifty years. He ‘tinkers’ with poor materials such as wood, paper, wire, synthetic foam and fragments of sheet metal, fabric or plastic. His drawings and collages are like experimental sketches rather than finished objects. They are works in process that avoid any kind of insistence or conventional aesthetics.
The Baroque and Color series reflects the reviving interest in the Baroque on the part of artists like Frank Stella and thinkers like Gilles Deleuze that took place after the mid-1980s. The references behind this sculpture-assemblage are Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White (1918, New York, Museum of Modern Art) and the reliefs of Ivan Puni. The work was originally part of an installation made for the baroque Spiegelsaal at the Neue Galerie in Graz, where it was positioned opposite a mirror. It became an autonomous piece when Tuttle decided to duct tape it onto a sheet of paper.
The square piece of graph paper to which the relief is now attached recalls the works of Agnes Martin, a close friend of Tuttle’s. It also constitutes the base or plane of the compositions against which the pieces that look like the negative form of the body and head and pegs of a violin now stand out. That instrument is a complex assemblage of pieces made from noble materials; in Tuttle’s hands it becomes an extremely precarious piece of bricolage, held together only by adhesive tape, a few nails and pins. This is his take on the great cubist adventure of deconstructing the motif.
Madeleine Grynsztejn (ed.), The Art of Richard Tuttle, exh. cat. San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Des Moines, Des Moines Art Center, Dallas, Museum of Art, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, Distributed Art Publishers, 2005.
Richard Tuttle: The Baroque and Color/Das Barocke und die Farbe, exh. cat. Graz, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, 1987.