Catalogue entry

William Tucker b. 1935

T01377 Orpheus 2 1965

Not inscribed.
Painted aluminium, 30¼ x 79 x 79 (77 x 200.5 x 200.5).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Coll: Mrs Shenkman.
Exh: Rowan Gallery, May 1966 (3); The Alistair McAlpine Gift, Tate Gallery,
June–August 1971 (41, repr.).
Lit: Richard Morphet, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971, pp. 89–105.

T01377 is one of an edition of three. Another version is in the collection of the Galleria dell'Ariete, Milan.

Like the ‘Meru’ series, ‘Orpheus II’ is constructed around an empty space, a practice Tucker first employed in 1963 and continues to extend. Where in ‘Margin I’ he aimed to articulate space with volume, in and after’ Margin II’ he aimed to do so by increasingly economical and essentially linear means. Both ‘Orpheus’ sculptures are based on a motif of four discs joined at a central point. In ‘Orpheus I’ the form stands on the ground on two of its protrusions, and is constructed from separated three-dimensional white segments penetrated and linked by flat metal sheets in pale lavender. ‘Orpheus III’ was to have been based on a three-dimensional projection of the motif, but this changed in the working process into the longer and narrower shape from which ‘Memphis’ was made. As in ‘Orpheus I’ and the topmost element of ‘Anabasis II’, ‘Orpheus 11’ ruptures their common motif at one point, thus turning a closed shape into one which is linear and by implication continuous. The fact of the break also encourages alternating readings of the sculpture—as the whole form and as four units of a module. The shape of the module is doubly telling because it is inherent both in the process that produced ‘Orpheus II’ and in Tucker’s intuitive vocabulary of shape. It was created not by the exercise of taste, but by Tucker’s actions in choosing the initial motif and breaking it at one corner; yet it has distinguishing features in common, to look no further than this group of works, with ‘Margin I’ and ‘Margin II’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.