Monday, February 1, 2010

More on Richard Tuttle

Metal Shoes, 6 © 2009 Richard Tuttle and Gemini G.E.L. LLC

Detail: Metal Shoes, 6 © 2009 Richard Tuttle and Gemini G.E.L. LLC

And while I’m on Tuttle, a word about two current exhibitions of his work: Metal Shoes, new prints at Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl (until February 27th) and the well-named Seeing Intimacy at the Craig Starr Gallery (Until February 13th).

Tuttle’s works on paper are especially understated and subtle -- everything counts. So at the opening of his Gemini prints show, I asked him about the frames and if they were a problem. He gave me a good answer, as far as it went. He said artists keep the size and shape of the work in mind as they work on it. This makes sense here since he chose the frames.

I should have asked him about the glass, because that influences his work much more than the frame does. His work, so intimate and so involved with surface and subtle color, is more affected by glass than most. Maybe he considered that with these prints. Maybe he used the glass -- the reflections and glossiness -- to make the images even more subtle. But I feel the loss of intimacy with the work is a problem. After all, glass literally separates you from the print.

In any case, it’s unlikely Tuttle intended the frames in a show of about a dozen works on paper, mainly from 1972, at the the Craig Starr Gallery. For one thing, during this period, Tuttle hung his work unframed. And these frames are particularly obtrusive: antiqued gold in most cases, and one (“Blues Overlapping”) a shabby silver frame with a deep box for a mat.

I don’t want to bash this show -- it’s engaging work from one of his best periods, and it only required a little extra effort for me to overcome the frames. I just want to make a point about what I call “the Fluxus paradox.” Art sometimes radically changes when it leaves the care of the artist. Fluxus art was casual, non-precious and unpretentious. Now that it’s been painstakingly preserved and carefully framed, or displayed (under guard) in glass cases (see the Fluxus Preview, 4th floor, MoMA), the work has become formal, precious and pretentious -- i.e. just the opposite of the original intent.

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