Richard Tuttle: L'nger Than Life

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Richard Tuttle: L'nger than life

Modern Art London 11 September to 10 October

Richard Tuttle belongs to a generation that pioneered material and spatial experimentation in the mid 1960s and early 70s. His concerns with the dematerialisation of the art object and the materialisation of the line itself were shared by artists like Lygia Clark in Rio de Janeiro, Gego in Caracas, Karel Malich in Prague and Eva Hesse, like himself, in New York. Tuttle's paperless drawings have included works in wire and shadow, in sawdust and string, in cloth and masking tape that mutate distinctions between sculpture, painting, drawing and installation. Here, he presents 13 wall hangings, called 'Walking on Air C1-13', all 2009, which consist of two 10x1ft panels of tie-dyed cotton hung above one another. A row of grommets gives the immediate effect of strips of sails robbed of their primary nautical function. The tie-dye method, requiring the crumpling and binding of the fabric to create resistances to the dye, delivers a culturally loaded aesthetic, which can summon resistances in the viewer. For many, tie-dye represents a hand-made plea for the utopianism of free love and a low cost, alternative lifestyle that fostered imaginative exchanges of labour for food, rent or clothing itself. Tuttle gives us pause to consider the 'naturalness' of tie-dying and how that became associated with a distinct lack of sophistication. The pieces hang like banners stranded from a passed pacifist parade, denuded of symbols yet suggesting others--is the crystalline cluster of pink explosions in C7 nuclear or organic? Are the skeletal shapes of what could be a pine forest or a series of X-rays of a spinal column, concerned with endangerment or decay?

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'Back to nature' has become 'with our back to nature' and there is an unavoidable streak of nostalgia in these works which feel 'environmental'. While evoking low-tech, relaxed happenstance, they are also meticulously ironed, deliberately creased here and there, with shadows of chosen density lying under the fabric. The clutch of creases ironed into the sky-blue panel of [C.sub.1] is intentional, but of what? The detailed specifics of line recall the phrase 'the chasm of the scruple' used by poet and critic Jacques Dupin in his attempt to escape narrative and use words 'as if he hadn't been born'. …