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Richard Tuttle
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Wikipedia About Richard Tuttle

Richard Dean Tuttle (born 12 July 1941) is an American postminimalist artist known for his small, subtle, intimate works. His art makes use of scale and line. His works span a range of media, from sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, and artist’s books to installation and furniture. Full Wikipedia Article

essay Richard Tuttle, Walker Art Center Collections, 2005

Richard Tuttle’s approach to art since the early 1960s has been subtle, idiosyncratic, and intimately poetic. Born in Rahway, New Jersey, in 1941, he studied literature and philosophy at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Perhaps it’s this nontraditional training that allows him to create art that crosses boundaries between drawing, sculpture, and painting while using materials as humble as paper, rope, string, cloth, wire, nails, and plywood. Line, form, and material are his holy trinity. His work—on the floor, the wall, in space—takes the practice of Minimalism and imbues it with human nuance and expressivity. He is an antiheroic poet and philosopher with an inclination toward the spiritual, and art is his primary form of communication. An Eastern sensibility, in particular, seems to pervade his practice.

Since his first show at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, in 1965, it has been clear that Tuttle prefers the path less ventured. Ten constructed paintings or “drawings” of painted plywood shapes were placed on the gallery walls and floor. Each of the handmade forms—suggesting sickle, wishbone, mushroom, alphabet letters, and so on—displayed a sensitivity of touch and an emotional core that only gained force with the passage of time. Time is a key element in his work, which tends to reveal its power slowly, like a finely crafted verse. “It’s a job for the scientist to find a new idea for time,” he says, “but it’s a job for the artist to show what the experience of time would be like.”1

Time is often read by the change of light, from intense to fading, overhead to just out of sight. Noting that “paper has the capacity for every expression and dimension,”2 Tuttle has created a work that adopts light as a mercurial partner in seeing and being. Each time Eighth Paper Octagonal (1970) is displayed, an original template drawn by the artist is used to create an exhibition version from white paper. The octagon, which measures five feet across, is then pasted directly onto a white wall. This modest white-on-white installation is determinedly elusive and delicately subtle. Depending on the time of day, the illumination of the room, or the angle from which we view it, the piece may disappear altogether or appear brighter or darker than the wall, seeming to gain volume or remain flat. The resulting interplay of light and shadow creates a poem in time, Tuttle’s gift to us.

  1. Quoted in Jochen Poetter, Richard Tuttle: Chaos, Die, or the Form, exh. cat. (Baden-Baden, Germany: Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 1993), 172.

  2. Quoted in Paul Gardner, “Odd Man In,” Artnews 103, no. 4 (April 2004): 103.

Ilesanmi, Olukemi. “Richard Tuttle.” In Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections, edited by Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2005.

© 2005 Walker Art Center