Richard Tuttle: Never Not an Artist

“As a young artist in the 1960s, just beginning to find his own voice, Richard Tuttle worked at the prestigious and adventurous Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City. There he experienced, first-hand, the work of the major Abstract Expressionists. Considering the expansiveness of their art, an art that wanted to break out of its frame and be noticed, Tuttle became interested in the opposite concept or construct—small, quiet, and modest. Using unheroic materials—rope, wire, string, cardboard, plywood, Styrofoam—Tuttle creates unassuming works that are miniature in scale. The works have an ephemeral quality and may verge on being invisible, such as a series that was hung at baseboard level. His pieces often confound viewers because on first encounter they appear simple, insubstantial, and something that any child could do. As one curator in this film notes, Tuttle pushes his work as far as it can go and still be considered art. Viewers who invest the time to look at his work and spend time with it will find that his work affects the ways in which they see. Not dissimilar to a poet, Tuttle pares his work down to essentials, which lead to meditation, reflection, contemplation, and insight. In August, 2005, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art organized the first Tuttle retrospective in forty years, and this film was created in conjunction with that event. The film does an excellent job of providing an overview of the artist’s achievement, and more importantly, conveying a sense of the man and his artistic interests. Much of it is filmed at the artist’s spare studio in New Mexico, where he speaks fondly of his love of the landscape and the light and shadows in the region. Interspersed with the artist’s comments and views of his work, the film includes commentary by critics and museum curators, including Marcia Tucker, who lost her job at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1975, after she organized a controversial Tuttle show. Like Tuttle’s work, this film is modest in scale, but thoughtful, intelligent, and engaging. Its presentation is simple and straightforward and it succeeds in making the work of this challenging artist more understandable to the average museum or gallery visitor. Recommended for university and large public libraries with contemporary art collections” –Joan Stahl, Branch Manager, Art + Architecture Libraries, University of Maryland,  Published and Copyright held by ARLIS/NA


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