Exhibition of seminal works by Richard Tuttle on view at Pace Gallery

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Exhibition of seminal works by Richard Tuttle on view at Pace Gallery
Installation view of Richard Tuttle: basis, 70s Drawings 540 West 25th Street, New York October 25 – December 21, 2019 Photography by Christine Jones, courtesy Pace Gallery

NEW YORK, NY.- Pace Gallery is presenting in its newly opened headquarters in New York an exhibition of seminal works by pioneering conceptual and Postminimalist artist Richard Tuttle. The exhibition is split into two bodies of work from the early and late 1970s—a decade marked by the birth of many new art forms, ranging from process-based art to land art and institutional critique. Always a maverick, Tuttle was at the forefront of these experimental practices. His works of this period defied categorization and went against the monumentalizing aesthetic and austere industrial precision of much art at the time—most notably Minimalism—through their modest scale, emphasis on the artist’s idiosyncratic touch, and embrace of everyday, humble materials. Bringing together his series of ninety-four “basis” drawings and the sculptural piece 8th Wood Slat (1974), this exhibition offers a unique glimpse into the formative years of Tuttle’s groundbreaking creative process, which elevated the perception of drawing to that of painting and sculpture. Presented together for the first time, these elegantly elemental works operate as visual poems that convey the artist’s open mind and freshness of vision in the 1970s. Richard Tuttle: basis, 70s Drawings is on view through December 21, 2019.

As evinced by their vivid colors, intimate scale, and sustained experimentation with line, the works in Richard Tuttle: basis, 70s Drawings are akin in style to the artist’s most renowned pieces. Like all of Tuttle’s oeuvre, they seek to challenge our preconceived notions on the nature of art and how we experience it. “In some sense, an artist is…a true philosopher,” Tuttle explains. “You can go to the limit of any and all disciplines.” His two sets of drawings—forty-one from the early ‘70s and fifty-three from the late ‘70s—articulate a visual vocabulary that would form the basis of much of his later work of the ‘80s, including the series “Loose Leaf Notebook Drawings,” “India Work,” and “Hong Kong Set.” They are part of Tuttle’s then-controversial reinvention of the medium: drawing as a performative act occurring within the gallery space and through the use of materials deemed extraneous to the arts.

Created soon after the pinnacle of Minimalism, which disrupted the strict distinction between painting and sculpture, the works in this exhibition similarly break down the boundaries between drawing and sculpture. The series achieves this by combining bright watercolors with collage and assemblage, producing a pronounced tactile quality. The artist’s carefully designed shadowbox frames, at first in ash wood and subsequently overlaid in gold leaf, extend this breakdown of boundaries to the work’s presentation and further blur the line separating the work of art from the realm of everyday objects.

In a performative act that eroded the medium specificity and autonomy of sculpture, Tuttle himself installed 8th Wood Slat—the last of eight thin, plywood trapezoids the artist made in 1974—in this exhibition. The wall-bound, low-relief brings the viewer’s attention to the marginal and liminal spaces of the gallery—specifically, the meeting point of the wall and the floor—by acting as both a dividing marker and hinge between these spaces. In this manner, Tuttle invites audiences to reconsider the relationship between their bodies and the gallery space, and between their routinized trajectories through architecture. The artist’s expressed hope is that this exhibition in Pace’s new galleries will enable the viewer to “learn something new about themselves, art, and the art world.”

Richard Tuttle: basis, 70s Drawings is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. It features the artist’s poems, conveying his youthful exuberance and unflagging artistic drive, as well as an essay in the form of letters by Art Historian Kent Mitchell Minturn, professor at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Additionally, Richard Tuttle: A Fair Sampling. Collected Writings 1965–2018, a 500-page book spanning the artist’s prolific career, will be released by German publisher Buchhandlung Walther König in 2020.

Richard Tuttle has revolutionized the landscape of contemporary art, challenging rules and notions of genre and media. His work exceeds rational determinations, sensitizing viewers to perception and the unconscious, and engages aspects of painting, drawing, sculpture, bookmaking, printmaking, and installation.

Exposed to the Pop movement and the beginnings of Minimalism as a young artist, Tuttle began to explore the possibilities of material and form freed from historical allusion and precedent. Early investigations into the merging of painting and sculpture are evident in his “Constructed” paintings which exist in a liminal space between mediums. For Tuttle, the 1980s and 1990s marked wider experimentation with material and a move toward inthe-round constructions. He began incorporating the frame as an element in his compositions, collapsing the boundaries between the artwork and its surrounding space.

Tuttle’s engagement with scale, light, and systems of display have endured throughout his oeuvre and can be seen in his attention to marginal spaces such as floors, corners, and over door frames. Rejecting the rationality and precision of Minimalism, Tuttle embraced a handmade quality and the invention of forms that emphasize the occupation of these spaces along with volume. Over the course of his career, he has continued to overturn traditional constraints of material, medium, and method that engage a variety of traditional and non-traditional processes such as in his wire, small-scale collage, dyed cloth, and octagonal pieces. The beauty and poetry that Tuttle draws out of everyday materials can be experienced in works that exist in the present moment, reflect the fragility of the world, and allow for individual experiences of perception.

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