On January 6, 2006, Zwirner & Wirth and Nyehaus will concurrently present a two-part exhibition of historical works on paper by Richard Tuttle. Spanning four decades of the artist's career with a focus on important works from the 1970s and 80s, the exhibition will exemplify the centrality of the practice of drawing to Tuttle's uniquely complex and multi-disciplinary body of work.
Expanding upon the concepts of minimalism through his use of non-traditional materials and improvisational working procedures, Tuttle is a leading figure of the "Post-minimalist" generation of artists. Since the 1960s, he has created singular works of art that often blur the distinctions between drawing, painting, and sculpture. Characterized by the artist's ongoing formal experimentation and investigation of materiality, Tuttle's body of work is ultimately committed to providing viewers with new ways of seeing.
Drawing has often been a daily practice for Tuttle, and occupies a primary position within his entire body of work: the artist often refers to his artworks, whatever their medium, as "drawing," in the sense that drawing can be understood as a metaphor for improvisation, process, or, ultimately, for thinking. This exhibition will present an extensive selection of works on paper that demonstrates Tuttle's continued formal and conceptual experiments. Made up of delicately-applied media, and often depicting unitary or isolated small-scale figures and shapes centered on the page, the artist's drawings are characterized by their pronounced physicality. With his works, Tuttle invites the viewer to pay attention to that which is normally overlooked: his drawings emphasize texture, form, and the contingent relationship between a work of art and the space surrounding it. Each of Tuttle's works yields an original expression, evoking a quiet, but insistent presence. As Susan Harris has written, "These images do not copy nature but create a new reality by adding to the world with its diverse forms."¹
A rare drawing in the exhibition, executed in 1969 and titled To New York, relates formally to a later work, titled On the Way to New York (1969), currently in Tuttle's retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition will also include a number of important serial works from the 1970s and 80s. Among them are drawings that are comprised of cut-out lines and glyph-like markings, such as those that form a significant 10-part untitled work from 1973 and those on view from the series titled 60" Center Works (1975). Tuttle's Vienna Series (1981) will be exhibited, presenting the artist's impressions of his travels in the city of Vienna. Moreover, examples of the artist's experiments with a-typical materials and framing devices will be shown, including a group of delicately-rendered watercolors from the series Great Men (1982), which are framed in plywood and call attention to their materiality. Similarly, the drawings that make up the series titled Custom and Presentation (1984), also in the exhibition, are imbued with an object-like presence by Tuttle's unusual choice of using plastic sheeting to frame them.
Since his first solo exhibition at Betty Parsons Gallery in 1965, Richard Tuttle has exhibited his work widely in the United States and abroad. His work has been shown in major exhibitions at such institutions as the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1971); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1972, with David Novros); the Whitney Museum of American Art (1975); the Kunsthalle Basel (1977); the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1979); the ICA, London (1985); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover (1990); and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (1998, with Agnes Martin). His work is currently the subject of a major traveling retrospective organized by Madeleine Grynsztejn at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a limited-edition artist’s book designed by Richard Tuttle, which will include images of the works on view accompanied by text excerpts from Leo Tolstoy's short story "The Kreutzer Sonata."
¹ Susan Harris, "Twenty Floor Drawings," Richard Tuttle (Amsterdam: ICA, 1991), p.51.