Richard Tuttle: Theatre of the Stars

For The Wind, 2019 3/4" birch plywood, nail, paper, graphite, paint, and electrical circuitry wire, 32.4x30.5x30.5cm

Photo taken by Han Mengyun

Apart from all the onerous discussion on text-image relations in art history, and among artists who use text in their work, Richard Tuttle's 'TheStars' is the lightest and the most intimate. Putting two pieces of plywood together in an obviously low-tech method and anchoring them on the wall, Tuttle forms a humble miniature theatre for the careless-looking sculptures characteristic of his long-famed sensitive and unconventional touch on materials, as well as his idiosyncratic reconfiguration that confuses their meaning. The handwritten texts on the wooden board facing the audience resemble fragments of a conversation, feigning an accidental encounter with someone else’s private matter: “I Have Seen You a Lot”, “There’s a Cow”, “I’m Just Worried If You Won’t Digest Something.” “Going to Argentina.” TheStars are visual haikus, brief and succinct, preparing a turn of thought as the words are read against the objects on stage. The lack of context or any continuation makes the meaning a gesture of poetic romance.

Sometimes the texts allude to the artist’s inner monologue during the process of making. “I’m Thinking Of How The Winter Looks”, the artist mumbles, suggesting that this yellow-blue paper stuck on the two steel string legs is the winter in his eyes. “For The Wind”, the artist dedicates this piece to the wind. “Anything”, then anything it is. “Closer And Closer And Closer”, Tuttle might be inviting us to come closer, or he himself is arriving somewhere, or the sculpture is becoming something. The words have imbued the sculptures made of tiny steel strings and scrap paper or wood with anthropomorphic qualities. They seem to be the listeners to these whispers, or deities housed in stone or wooden niches, joining the prayer of mundane despair. One can almost confide in these objects.

There is no answer to what TheStars mean, just like the stars, and it’s best that they remain unfathomable. Possibilities of various interpretations is the nature of poetry. The shelf-theatre is the chamber of our human mind, where forms and words perform.