New York

Richard Tuttle, System 2, Winter, 2011, 2 x 4“ fir lumber, 4 x 4” fir lumber, acrylic, asphaltum, balsa wood, beet juice, bolts, bubble wrap, cotton string, enamel, fabrics, feathers, fir plywood, galvanized metal, glass beads, leather, metal, pine, vinyl-coated steel cable, powder-coated iron, straight pins, Styrofoam, wing nuts, wire, 96 x 96 x 96".

Richard Tuttle, System 2, Winter, 2011, 2 x 4“ fir lumber, 4 x 4” fir lumber, acrylic, asphaltum, balsa wood, beet juice, bolts, bubble wrap, cotton string, enamel, fabrics, feathers, fir plywood, galvanized metal, glass beads, leather, metal, pine, vinyl-coated steel cable, powder-coated iron, straight pins, Styrofoam, wing nuts, wire, 96 x 96 x 96".

Richard Tuttle

The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

Richard Tuttle, System 2, Winter, 2011, 2 x 4“ fir lumber, 4 x 4” fir lumber, acrylic, asphaltum, balsa wood, beet juice, bolts, bubble wrap, cotton string, enamel, fabrics, feathers, fir plywood, galvanized metal, glass beads, leather, metal, pine, vinyl-coated steel cable, powder-coated iron, straight pins, Styrofoam, wing nuts, wire, 96 x 96 x 96".

“What’s the Wind” was a little startling coming from Richard Tuttle, an artist famous for artmaking delicate enough to spark the story that people have walked in and out of a roomful of his work believing the space was empty. The critic Robert Storr once titled an essay on Tuttle “Touching Down Lightly”; in this show, the artist touched down pretty heavily, making six large, awkward conglomerations of bright-colored, often scrappy-looking components, all set solidly on the floor, all around eight or nine feet square, the tallest reaching to sixteen feet high. Tuttle is actually quite comfortable with scale, having made fairly sizable works, some of them robust enough to be installed outdoors. In fact, even his most fragile and insubstantial pieces may activate entire spaces. Still, in seeming to move in the direction of an artist like Jessica Stockholder, the works in “What’s the Wind” surprised.

And yet these works are completely recognizable as Richard Tuttle. I said “awkward” but that’s not really so—better to say they play with awkwardness but pass through it to the other side. Line in Tuttle’s work has special vagaries: Even when apparently or deliberately happenstance, or dictated by qualities inherent in its materials, it has a clunky elegance, and its uneven rhythms seem to acquire philosophical weight. Alternately regular and ungainly, swollen and attenuated, soft and hard, the shapes and surfaces of these new works play absorbing games.

All of the works use the word system in their titles, suggesting both a methodicalness in their facture and an interrelatedness among their parts. Indeed, none of these works is an integral object, all comprising a scaffolding—structurally similar to one another, each an implicitly or explicitly square base with four equal verticals rising either from its corners or from the midpoint of each side—that support a range of stuff. Translated into words, the materials of this stuff—carefully catalogued on the exhibition’s checklist, which could have said simply mixed media—to me are a kind of poem, with “System 2, Winter, 2011, for example, including acrylic, asphaltum, balsa wood, beet juice, bolts, bubble wrap, cotton string, fabrics, feathers, fir plywood, galvanized metal, glass beads, leather, vinyl-coated steel cable, powder-coated iron, straight pins, Styrofoam, wing nuts, wire, and that’s not everything in a twenty-two-item inventory. (I am amused by the alphabetical order, which diplomatically and democratically treats every material equally, though some are barely visible.) Some of these materials, such as the square of raw plywood that gives this work its base, appear pretty much as found, whereas others have been cut, shaped, pinned, pegged, and often painted, in bright primaries but also in pale, washed-out variants on them, or in pallid greens and other in-between shades. Given more colors innate in the materials—the gold paper and translucent, suntan-colored polyethylene in “System 5, Glass Suit,” 2011, for example—the installation as a whole was virtually gaudy.

For all of these materials, and the objects he has made of them, Tuttle has found homes in the basic scaffolding or framework, within and against which they stand, lean, hang, and a few other verbs as well. I somehow doubt this was the artist’s intention, but the square format, with posts surrounding it on each side, reminded me of a boxing ring; at any rate, each work is an arena within which quite disparate entities coexist, each making its own struggle with gravity. The social model is inescapable, but probably not to be made too much of—the visual intricacy and variety of these deceptively simple works is more than enough.

David Frankel