A vital force in the development of Conceptualism and post-Minimalism, Richard Tuttle is one of the most influential artists of his generation. Tuttle’s work usually relies on seemingly understated uses of common materials, such as plywood, rope, Styrofoam, fabric, and cardboard. His careful use of simple media is intended to call attention to their manipulation, display, and materiality, as well as their effects upon the viewer’s perceptual awareness. Unlike many of his Minimalist contemporaries, Tuttle is a vocal proponent of beauty and the persuasive power of aestheticism. Wire and wood, in his work, may refer to drawing and Baroque decoration, while blank paper renders invisibility as a palpable but ineffable presence.
Although much in Tuttle’s assemblages may appear haphazard, aleatory, or improvisational, his reputation is that of a master craftsman. His extensive planning, design, and carefully considered execution yields a body of work that emphasizes the importance of the details. Curious, also, is the modest scale of most of Tuttle’s artworks. Their smallness is deliberately antithetical to, and in confrontation with, the industrial monoliths of his peers, such as Judd, Serra, and di Suvero. In addition to his visual art, Tuttle writes poetry and has previously collaborated with poets such as Charles Bernstein and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge.
Though Tuttle’s work is now canonical, it was met with fierce criticism early in his career: the artist’s 1975 solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art was received terribly by many prominent critics, most famously by Hilton Kramer of the New York Times, and curator Marcia Tucker—who went on to found the New Museum of Contemporary Art later that year—was fired from the museum, allegedly because of the controversy surrounding the show. 30 years later, Tuttle’s 2005 retrospective at the Whitney was welcomed with great enthusiasm from critics and audiences alike.
Tuttle has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and retrospectives, at venues including the Whitney Museum, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Dallas Musuem of Art, the Drawing Center in New York, the ICA London, the Musée d’art modern de la ville de Paris, among many others. His work was also included in the Venice Biennale in 2001 and 1997; the Whitney Biennial in 1977, 1979, 1987, and 2000; and Documenta 5 (1972), 6 (1977), and 7 (1982).