T02005 EARLY REPLY 1972
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.
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978