‘Line, textile and the art of Richard Tuttle’: Abstract
My doctoral research is concerned with probing the oeuvre of the American artist Richard Tuttle through the lens of textiles. A practitioner whose career emerged as conventions relating to textiles were being renegotiated by such figures as Lenore Tawney and Magdalena Abakanowicz, his work parallels the rise of fibre art in a singular and influential way. That these materials have regularly appeared as components of his diverse output over the course of his 50-year career was spotlighted by a major two-site exhibition at the Tate and Whitechapel galleries in London in 2014-15.
One of the original ordering mechanisms for securing basic human needs, textiles provide a tantalising framework through which to penetrate the complexity of Tuttle’s oeuvre, one in which the interplay of order and disorder gives rise to works that often look provisional, but are, in fact, carefully conceived. He incorporates textiles materially in unconventional ways, but they are also deployed metaphorically to unify the abstract and concrete through the very structure of the weave, the horizontal and vertical elements that together provide cohesion.
Taking key examples of Tuttle’s work, this paper unpicks the weave, extracts line as a foundational element in his practice and shows how it permeates his art and manifests in recurring motifs and spatial dynamics. Determining what meanings textiles hold for this important artist is generating new insight into a material that is ancient in origin, ubiquitous, and current.