Richard Tuttle

Galeria Weber/Alexander y Cobo

Perhaps none of the verses from Rainer Maria Rilke’s elegies appears as enigmatic as the one in which he recalls the desire for the earth to become invisible. In contemplating Richard Tuttle’s work, however, the verse becomes transparent, as if Tuttle’s intentions coincided exactly with Rilke’s. Here, the two series of “Perceived Obstacles,” 1991, seem, in fact, determined to facilitate this world’s transition to the immaterial. In the ten watercolors, a landscape quality is present: nature—reality—is represented, summoned to a journey toward the transparent space of imagination. Pure color might be a vehicle by which the perceived obstacle dissolves; as Tuttle states, “Sometimes the vertical . . . becomes itself part of the invisible.”

In the painted constructions “Perceived Obstacle I–XX,” 1991, the pathway is inverted. It becomes a matter of “constructing” an object that fully inhabits the realm of artifice. Taking charge of the gallery space, these obstacles, arranged in geometric plans drawn on the walls, seem to be the result of a final attempt to entrust art with the objectivity of science and geometry. The ability to consider both landscape and geometry together as a single impulse to move from the material to the invisible or transparent, allows us to perceive the general thrust of Tuttle’s work, and, indeed, the post-Minimalist tradition in which it is inscribed. This may just be the greatest virtue of this exhibition.

Tuttle’s production inhabits a space between painting and sculpture, between landscape and geometry, between invisibility and color, not because of indecision or insecurity. This position suggests a radicalness of program, a passion for the absolute. Thus, the search for the perfect, impossible plane draws him to play with the proximity of sculpture and painting. In the middle lies the space we inhabit. In this light, post-Minimalism—and in particular Tuttle’s work—suggests a humanized Minimalism. The Minimalist suspension of representation is maintained here, yet we are aware of its price. Perhaps the prerequisite for serving the desire for the material to become invisible is the violation of this renunciation, in order to admit, again, the possibility of meaning. Perhaps the whole poetic of Minimalism translates into a kind of mystical scientism of representation. And still, Tuttle, like a contemporary Mephistopheles, tempts us with the possibility: “But how do you pass from material to immaterial?” he asks. “You should know how to see this. You’ll not believe it. From the actual thing to the represented thing, it’s dramatic, as when the curtain rises in the theatre.”

José Luis Brea

Translated from the Spanish by Yvonne Menard.