Today's blog post was written by Sarah Palmeri, the Assistant Director at Nuart Gallery and an artist in Santa Fe's Strangers Collective.
Susanne K. Langer, American philosopher of mind and of art, once said, “Most new discoveries are suddenly seen things that were always there.” Richard Tuttle’s work embodies this statement, turning on the invisible power of humble materials by transforming them into raw yet refined entities. It quietly shakes the foundations of what we consider to be art, to be meaningful, and to be valuable.
The New Mexico Museum of Art acquired about two-dozen works in 2009 from Tuttle’s Loose Leaf Notebook Drawing Series as part of the Fifty Works for Fifty States program set up by collectors Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. These simple watercolor drawings are composed of notebook paper that buckles under the weight of the small, spirited marks of liquid, always reminding you of the material, the physicality, and disposability of the object. Tuttle told Art in America in an interview there was about 7,000 of these drawings, most of which were thrown away. “I was moving,” he said, “I took some of them to the garbage. Herb Vogel came to visit and I said to him, "The garbage truck's coming in five minutes. If you want those drawings, you can have them."’ Luckily, Mr. Vogel saved about five hundred of them, which are now spread across the country in numerous museum collections.
Loose Leaf Notebook Drawing - Box 10, Group 4, 1980-1982, watercolor on paper.
New Mexico Museum of Art, The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States,
a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art,
with generous support of the National Endowments for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2009 (2009.36.49a)
Tuttle’s unconventional, sometimes detritus materials, such as toilet paper rolls, rough cut plywood, string, and fabric, blur the line between art and everyday life, presenting ordinary items as a phenomenological experience. Some of his work is installed flat on the floor, low on the wall, or hung over one hundred inches high. This carefully considered placement along with focus on the material, construction, and composition create a quiet reminder for us to look for and cherish the neglected, forgotten, and invisible.
Fiction Fish I, 15, 1992. graphite, ink and watercolor on cardboard, graphite line,
7" x 8-1/2" x 1-1/2" (17.8 cm x 21.6 cm x 3.8 cm). Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery.
Two With Any To #11, 1999. acrylic on fir plywood,
11" x 11" x 1-3/4" (27.9 cm x 27.9 cm x 4.4 cm). Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery.
The purpose of contemporary art today is to mirror our society, to give us the resources to not just look, but to see, and to feed our inner life. It gives us permission to rethink the familiar, to open up to the unfamiliar, and to “suddenly see things that were always there.” Richard Tuttle takes it one step further, creating art that enhances one’s experience of the world with uninhibited freedom, allowing every object around us to be discovered, explored, understood, and felt.
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