Richard Tuttle, DAM – Ashley Ludkowski

Ashley Ludkowski

Artist Lecture, DAM – Richard Tuttle

Leaving the Denver Art Museum after listening to Richard Tuttle speak, I was most confused to say the least. His latest exhibition, What’s the Wind at the Pace Gallery in NYC, consisted of six sculptures that at first glace seem to be a compilation of random assortments, but with a little explanation, the materials begin to make some form of sense. Yet, Tuttle is a man who gets carried away on long tangents with ambiguous words, often straying far from the original idea he was attempting to discuss. The way in which he vocalizes himself is a direct relationship to what his art looks like.

I must say the conceptual ideas behind his structures would be very hard to come to the conclusion of without Tuttle’s explanation. Each piece had a list of numerous materials ranging from scotch tape to ply wood and plastic wrap. His focus was essentially the ambiguousness between frames. Tuttle feels the structure of a sculpture is somewhere within the blankness, much like life. This notion was one I agreed with, as life is often times be very blank. The structure is there, but it is regularly covered with the mundaneness of everyday tasks. What I enjoyed most from Tuttle was his theories, such as the blankness, about society and how he interpreted those into a visual exercise.

Tuttle believes people would rather be “slaves” than deal with “freedom.” This is one of the main points he attempts to display within the restraints of his sculptures. I found it interesting how he manipulates the objects within the gallery space so individuals are forced to think about their relationship to the objects as they are restrained into a unified whole within themselves. I had never really thought about this slave idea of his. I can definitely agree that for a large part of society, individuals enjoy taking the easy way out. This ‘easy way’ can be translated into becoming a ‘slave’ because if they had worked harder or tried for something they truly wanted, they would have been more ‘free’. Individuals like this simply become a slave to the everyday motions, taking what they are given, never exceeding to free their minds and souls.

The monotonous lifestyle of a “slave” is something Tuttle was good at juxtaposing within his work. I enjoyed how he changed up the gallery space by inviting a number of different elements to confront the audience. His work is extremely abstract, but it is of a playful nature. Very goofy and colorful at times, but also straightedge and bland, he incorporates a lot of different emotions into each piece. After listening to him speak, the playfulness seen within his sculptures seems to go along with his personality quite well.

Tuttle feels “art is a spiritual revelation.” The body is of high importance to spirituality, something Tuttle has always attempted to capture in his work, but admits he has always failed. He believes nobody has made a sculpture that fully captures the abstraction of the human figure. I would personally love to see a sculpture that Tuttle agrees does accomplish this idea. With all his viewpoints, Tuttle never disregards that there is always a separation of viewpoints.

The separation of viewpoints is displayed in his sculptures by the square frame surrounding them. At certain angles, according to Tuttle, this square frame also allows the audience to be brought ‘into’ the work itself. Tuttle likes to engage the viewers and get their minds moving. His sculptures definitely demand the viewers to ponder. As eyes roll over feathers, nails and wood, one can only begin to imagine what each deliberate addition to the piece truly stands for.

Tuttle has created pieces that offer a lot to the audience. As an artist, he tries to focus on how the brain and eye work in conjunction with one another. He believes there are a lot of options and opportunities to make sculptures out of what is offered, a notion which can easily be implied when you look at the amount of materials he used in this latest show of his.

The internal and external politics of the human fully engulf Tuttle’s sculptures. Even though one may not see what Tuttle sees on the surface, with a little explanation and out-of-the-box thinking, it begins to create a cohesive idea. Still extremely ambiguous, his six sculptures definitely speak of the essentials of everyday life that fill or enhance the void we often feel. Tuttle’s philosophical problems arise when he begins to connect these different materials. I enjoyed what his lecture provided and being able to hear him speak about his work. A passionate man, his ambiguousness can be interpreted in many ways, which I greatly enjoyed.

2 Responses

  1. I saw the Richard Tuttle lecture as well and was so pleased to read your analysis. It captured many of my own feelings, but felt you may have understood his art differently than I did. Which is of course, what his art is intended to accomplish, since he is so focused on engaging the viewer. The openness of interpretation was even encapsulated in the lectures ambiguous-ness, which you do a nice job of tying into the art.

  2. Richard Tuttle has always confused me a bit too. I don’t necessarily respond to his work visually or aesthetically, but I do think he is most succesful in his theories behind his work. I think it’s interesting how you discuss in your paper how Tuttle feels we would rather be “slaves” than deal with “freedom”. I think this is so true, because in my personal opinion I feel people would rather just do what they are told or follow the “norm” than to explore new ideas and step outside the box. I think most artists try to break free from the “slave” mindset.

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