The UK’s largest ever survey of American sculptor and poet Richard Tuttle takes place in London this October (2014), comprising a major exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery surveying five decades of his career, a large-scale sculptural commission in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and a new publication. I Don’t Know . The Weave of Textile Language was devised by the artist and focuses on the particular importance of textiles in his work. It is curated by Magnus af Petersens, chief curator, Whitechapel Gallery and Achim Borchardt-Hume, head of exhibitions, Tate Modern with Poppy Bowers, assistant curator, Whitechapel Gallery and Hansi Momodu-Gordon, assistant curator, Tate Modern.
Richard Tuttle was born in New Jersey in 1941, and now lives and works between Maine, New Mexico and New York. He came to prominence in the 1960s, combining sculpture, painting, poetry and drawing. He is revered for his delicate and playful approach, often using such humble, everyday materials as cloth, paper, rope and plywood and for this project he took as his starting point what in this context is seen one of the unsung heroes of everyday life: textiles.
Textiles are commonly associated with craft and fashion, yet woven canvas lies behind many of the world’s most acclaimed works of art and textiles are of increasing interest to artists. I Don’t Know . The Weave of Textile Language investigates the importance of this material throughout history, across Tuttle’s remarkable body of work and into the latest developments in his practice.
The Whitechapel Gallery exhibition (14 October – 14 December 2014) surveys Richard Tuttle’s career from the 1960s to date. He is renowned for being one of the first artists in western tradition to make the radical gesture of taking the canvas off the stretcher and hanging it directly on the wall in works such as Purple Octagonal 1967, as well as making provocative sculptures such as Third Rope Piece 1974, the intimate scale of which directly responds to traditional ideas of monumental art.
Showcasing works selected in close dialogue with the artist, the exhibition centres on his use of fibre, thread and textile and offers a fascinating introduction to Tuttle’s influential body of work. The exhibition includes Looking for the Map 8 2013-14, a new work shown in the UK for the first time, alongside works made in situ by the artist such as the re-making of Ten Kinds of Memory and Memory Itself 1972, as well as international loans from museums and private collections.
Rather than displaying the works chronologically, Tuttle has instead positioned works in a formal relationship to each other and in direct response to the architectural framework of Whitechapel Gallery’s historic exhibition spaces. A concern with colour, line and movement runs through Tuttle’s intuitive presentation which occupies both ground and first floor galleries, featuring works ranging in scale from the intricate series of Section, Extension wall pieces to the 3-metre long floor-based sculpture Systems VI 2011.
Alongside the Whitechapel exhibition, a newly commissioned sculpture in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (14 October 2014 to 6 April 2015) presents a construction made principally of fabric. The largest work ever created by the artist, over 12 metres high, the sculpture brings together three specially-made fabrics, each of which combines natural and man-made fibres to create different textures in bright colours. These are suspended from the ceiling as a sculptural form, contrasting with the solid industrial architecture of the Turbine Hall, to create a huge volume of joyous colour and fluidity.
Tuttle’s work is held in major private and public collections around the world and recent retrospectives have been held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
The project at Tate Modern and the Whitechapel Gallery is supported by the I Don’t Know . The Weave of Textile Language Supporters Circle. Textile material for the commission was provided by Garden Silks Mills Ltd.