It is seldom that an artist’s relationship with a gallery endures over forty-one years, marked by sustained vitality and intensity. In our case, the extraordinary and unusual artist personality Richard Tuttle has enabled a fascinating shared path and afforded abundant inspiration and stimulation. His artistic work eludes foreseeable categorizations and resists habit and habituation.
From May 17 to June 28, 1974, the “Heavy Wire Pieces” were exhibited in our gallery at the time on Mühlegasse, or more precisely, the works took up the possibilities of these spaces and over a period of weeks there arose a very special, self-evident connection and correspondence between the group of works and the autonomous individual pieces. This initial exhibition of Richard Tuttle in our gallery remained the model for the many exhibitions to follow here and at our other gallery locations.
The year 1976 deserves recognition as a milestone of special importance in our working relationship with Richard Tuttle. Richard entrusted us to administer 289 drawings produced from 1968 to 1976. He made this decision following our visit in New York. In his small apartment, which also served as his studio, drawings hung from the walls and lay on the floor. The profusion and chaos illustrated how drawing incessantly engaged and occupied him (as has remained the case to the present day) in the studio and on his many extended travels – and it demonstrated how drawing functioned as the veritable epicenter of the artistic process. The high regard for the drawings, but also the wear and tear and endangerment to which they were exposed, led Richard to hand over the entire contents of his studio. Shortly before the end of the year, we reviewed and ordered the sheets together with the artist in Zurich and put together the “List of Drawing Material of Richard Tuttle”, which was reproduced and made accessible to a small circle of individuals in January 1977. Each work was precisely described, and the year of creation, technique, dimensions were recorded. For the “Center Point Works” starting in 1975, it was apparent that further precise stipulations were necessary: “Center point drawings to be placed in center of wall at a specified point (height), using a specified means of hanging.”
The in-depth investigation of the drawings we were able to undertake with Richard Tuttle made clear that this was a unique graphic oeuvre, with its own rules, own forms, own conventions.
The indefatigable art critic Dr. Maria Netter arranged the exhibition of 100 works selected from the bundle of drawings at the Kunsthalle in Basel. Organized at short notice, the show took place from June 11 to September 11, 1977. A small catalogue was printed and the impressive exhibition was well received. In early 1979, the book “List of Drawing Material of Richard Tuttle & Appendices” was published. It contains full-page reproductions of all the drawings with detailed information about each work, a reprint of the list from 1977 and interesting supplementary texts. To this day, the book continues to be the standard reference work on the genesis of Tuttle drawings.
In compiling the list and putting together the book, it became evident that, apart from a number of distinctive and in most cases early works that did not fit this pattern, a certain starting situation could be observed that gives structure to the oeuvre. The drawings are combined in smaller or larger groups, often given a joint title, sometimes described as a “series”. They never consisted of sketches or preliminary drafts. The respective drawing pad or sketchbook determines the size and characteristics of the paper, but also the progression and the sequences of the drawing activity. This acts like a receptacle, evoking space, depth and time and enabling the drawings to collectively achieve a shared resonance and a captivating self-generated coherence.
To this day, Richard Tuttle has carried forth his drawing work in this manner. Special attention is given to the framing and presentation of the groups of drawings. Small units give rise to works of stature. Significant examples from the past years are on view in our exhibition, as a remembrance of a piece of our gallery’s history.