Los Angeles

Richard Tuttle

Daniel Weinberg Gallery

The self-assured, soft-spoken style of Richard Tuttle has maintained its identity over the past twenty years, depending more on its casually assertive presence than on any commitment to specific materials, scale, or subject matter. The early works made of paper, wire, and cloth were lean and abstract, vulnerable and self-effacing, yet strangely compelling and intense. As Tuttle remarked some years ago, “To make something which looks like itself is . . . the problem, the solution.” In other words, the work must have its own believable life like that of a natural creature, without resembling one.

During the past few years Tuttle has ventured into a baroque phase, employing sheets of painted cardboard, meandering wire, bits of gauzy materials, and some frankly decorative passages of color. The old tautness has gone slack; the knowing, strong softness has turned blowsy and, for some, uncomfortable. Tuttle’s recent work may resolve the questions raised by his explorations of the early ’80s. In place of a single image or a tightly wound configuration made from a few elements, we see in the new work an open, almost narrative flow of incident and material.

The objects, relatively large for Tuttle pieces, are each composed of three or more types of material—folded and crushed paper, cut and folded paper, bent wire running as a kind of connective sinew through the work, cardboard, paint. Each layer builds and depends on the others. A satisfying aspect of Tuttle’s early work is its sense of wholeness and inevitability, the viewer seeming to discover the image at once and in its entirety. Now Tuttle’s constructions unfold in time, for the viewer is obliged to mentally deconstruct them to perceive the interplay of individual elements. At times the rhythms are jarring and disjunctive; Tuttle’s physical manipulation of his fragile media seems to have been bold and quick, leaving the material in a state of tension and vulnerability.

So consistently a creator of things graceful and lyrical, Tuttle now seems to intentionally stalk the clumsy and the unlovely, inserting dull, heavy tones of rose madder and earthy grays into delicately wrought runs of cut and folded paper held out in space by curvilinear strands of bent wire. The result is sometimes difficult, yet ultimately moving. The artist has questioned his own habits and ideals, pushed past the comfortable boundaries of his definitions, and struggled to recover his delicate sense of balance. The consummate esthetic high-wire performer, Tuttle carries no excess baggage.

Susan C. Larsen