Tribute, by Anne Truitt (Photo courtesy of Anne Truitt)

More thoughts about Anne Truitt, mostly through commentary by others:

Her son-in-law, art critic Charlie Finch, wrote an essay about Truitt that brings her work and her persona closer together. He begins the essay by describing Truitt as “the driest, most detached person I had yet encountered, so removed that she toasted us young newlyweds at our reception by remarking that ‘it is like watching them go down Niagara Falls in a barrel.'” But he puts her detachment into perspective, and his insights into her work are memorable.

From his article on Artnet:

In the politics of art, she had helped Morris Louis’ widow unroll his canvases, enjoyed a collaborative relationship with Kenneth Noland and was championed as an original by Clement Greenberg. Precisely because she worked so intensively and personally on her sculptures, Anne was dismissed by Minimalists such as Donald Judd for being too subjective (and, of course, too female) to create true “specific objects.” Anne was deeply respectful of her dealer, Andre Emmerich, who criminally ignored her for a long time, giving her the occasional show, but little practical assistance.

In the studio, Anne was painstaking to a fault, finding the right piece of wood, sanding it for months to the point where it could properly absorb and reflect her chosen color and then applying layer upon layer of paint in order, counterintuitively, to achieve maximum transparency. The tiny bands of color at the base of her sculptures, which were subsequently borrowed by Haim Steinbach for his marvelous series of black paintings, were a clue to their meaning. There are two interpretive elements to Truitt’s sculpture, a forbidding armor which blocks out the viewer at first glance and then a slowly revealed intimacy which invites further discovery.

Another commentary on her work was written by Peter Plagens in response to a show of Truitt’s work in Baltimore in 1992.

Truitt’s work is deceptively simple. Take “Autumn Dryad” (1975), for instance. It’s a boxy wooden column, a little taller than most people, painted entirely orange except for a grayish mauve brand around the bottom. At first glance, it seems like a design fillip for a Scandinavian airport lobby. But as you continue to look at it (and you cannot help but look at it), you notice that the acrylic paint has been lovingly applied in untold coats. Simultaneously, the sculpture looks like it’s solid color, like butter is yellow all the way through. The piece makes your mouth water (which is, by the way, the test of all good abstract art). “Autumn Dryad” is visceral-as opposed to conceptual-minimalism. As Truitt puts it, “Everything is written on the body. Your experience stains your body like color dyes a canvas. [That’s why] the paint sinks into the wood. It marries the wood.” In almost all the works on view, the bride and groom indeed live happily ever after.

Additionally, my response to her most recent show at the Hirshhorn Museum can be read here.)

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