Richard Tuttle, “Village VI, No. I, 10,” 2005. Illustration board, mat board, acrylic, pine, glue, corrugated cardboard, paper, wire, marker, graphite, glue sticks, and nails, 14 x 11 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Chris Maybach‘s film, Richard Tuttle: Never Not an Artist, was made in 2005 on behalf of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of their retrospective of Tuttle’s work (which also came to the Whitney Museum in New York.) But after several conversations this weekend about art and comprehension—or the lack of it—and being inspired by my friend George Wingate’s very Tuttlesque sensibilities, I watched the film again last night. This is, for me, a 30 minute sermon about what matters most in art making.

A few highlights:

Tuttle offers this, very matter-of-factly, without bitterness or bite: Of the art interested public, only one in ten gets my work.

When Tuttle was working as a gallery assistant at the prestigious Betty Parsons Gallery in the early sixties, Betty told him that the abstract expressionists were painting the expanding universe. “When I heard that it caused me to consider taking the other position and to work smaller.”

“When I come into synch with the art thing that I am carrying around, I am free from myself.”

Cornelia Butler, an art critic who has written about Tuttle’s work, talks about how critics keep looking for a language to contain his work. “His work resists it.”

Roy Dowell, head of the Graduate Fine Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design, made the point that Tuttle is not a minimalist. “There is just so much there in his work.”

Dowell also asked the question, “Where does Tuttle get his confidence?” which, given the simplicity of his aesthetics and his approach to materials, is actually an interesting question. But the fact that he has it is essential, clearly.

A few geniuses are likable humans as well. Tuttle is one of those for me.

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