Richrd Tuttle at the Whitechapel Gallery

This season the Whitechapel Gallery presents the largest collection Richard Tuttle’s work ever shown in the UK in the new exhibition ‘I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language’. The renowned post minimalist American artist fuses together his poetry, textile and sculpture in this collection, which spans over five decades of his career.

Richard Tuttle rose to prominence in the 1960s for his unique combination of varied materials and his fusion of textile with poetry. His humbling ‘I don’t know’ title, which mirrors his use of everyday materials such as rope, chairs and odd bits of paper, has almost become a trademark of the artist’s work. The exhibition focuses on the use of fibre, thread and textile. Through his fascination with the linguistic relationship between the words ‘text’ and ‘textile’ which ‘share the same root but not the same stem’, Tuttle understands the weaving of both to create more clarity in the world. In this way he throws these ordinary materials, which are usually more associated with fashion and craft, into the artistic limelight as the main component of his works.

Reflective of Tuttle’s diverse and playful attitude towards creation, this exhibition is comprised of such different pieces from a three inch piece of rope to larger sculptures made of a variety of media piled on top of each other until deemed satisfactory. Descriptions and technical information are replaced by beautiful pieces of Tuttle’s insightful poetry, which cast a new light upon his work and lightly tease us with mysterious messages as to their relation to the artworks themselves.

The collection is fun, light hearted and thought provoking. Although the materials render the subject matter accessible to most, the original fusion of this with the poetry invites a new dimension to the works, an additional layer of musing which isn’t emphasised in the same way by the pieces alone. Tuttle’s work isn’t pretentious or exclusive, as some more abstract modern day art is found to be. Instead it raises questions and gives us new perspectives on things we see everyday – interpreting beyond the pure material of the objects we see, to find a deeper significance.

It is clear that Tuttle takes pride and care in his work as his pieces are delicately put together, yet this isn’t to say that they aren’t loud enough to be highly memorable – on the contrary, he seems to create a bold statement with pieces large or small. This exhibition is a wonderful introduction to Tuttle’s work and a genuine reflection of the great variety of mediums that he fearlessly tackles. Including many key pieces that brought the artist to fame, it’s a great opportunity to catch his work right in our own little part of East London.


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