Richard Smith

Early Reply

1972

On display at Tate Modern

Medium
Acrylic paint, canvas, metal and fabric
Dimensions
Support: 1359 x 2972 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1975
Reference
T02005

Display caption

An alternative to the conventional structure of canvas stretched across a wooden backing frame is proposed here. A grid of aluminium tubes are used as the support instead, and the work is suspended on the wall by strips of painted tape that also run diagonally across the canvas, twisting at the bottom and edges to reveal their painted underside. While still holding on to the category of ‘painting’, the work draws attention to its presence as a physical object, not just a two-dimensional image.

Gallery label, January 2016

Catalogue entry

T02005 EARLY REPLY 1972

Not inscribed
Acrylic on canvas, aluminium rods sewn in, tapes stitched on 53 1/2×117 (136×297)
Purchased from the Waddington Galleries (Gytha Trust) 1975
Coll: Bought from the artist by Kasmin Gallery, 1972, sold to Waddington Galleries 1975
Exh: Richard Smith: New Paintings, Kasmin Gallery, July–August 1972 (no catalogue); Richard Smith: Seven Exhibitions 1961–75, Tate Gallery, August–September 1975 (60. repr. p.100)
Lit: Barbara Rose ‘An interview with Richard Smith’ in Studio International, CXC, 1975, pp.165–7

‘Early Reply’ was one of the first completed paintings of this type. The first three were ‘Yellow Board’, ‘Early Reply’ and ‘Untitled (Blue)’. It was a reply to the large shaped canvases which Smith had been making, and early because it was at the beginning of this new type of work. Ten canvases of this kind were exhibited as Kasmin's gallery in 1972, all of which were titled after they were complete, and some as the exhibition was being hung.

No drawings were made for this picture, though Smith was making drawings which were related to this (and other similar works) at the time. In these new works the canvas was stretched over aluminium tubes instead of the traditional wooden stretcher. ‘Early Reply’, like ‘Yellow Board’, has all the aluminium tube supports arranged in a grid behind the canvas, tied through to the front surface where the upper and lower horizontal tubes meet the vertical tubes, and fitted into small pockets on each edge of the painting. The ties are used to fasten the diagonal tapes. The artist suggested that the tapes were an equivalent for line. He had previously thought of cutting the stretched canvas, but had found it impossibly difficult to control; so he cut the tapes instead. By painting them with a different colour on each side (blue and green) he was able to represent both line and space. The tapes are almost part of the structure of the work, in that the picture hangs from them, but they do not affect the tension of the canvas, and are not used like the strings in the later paintings which pull the canvas taut by running through the aluminium tubes. Unlike ‘Mandarino’ 1973, T01807, the corners are left unsupported and fall over at the top of the work revealing the back of the canvas.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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