William Tucker b. 1935
T01380 Series A (No. I) 1968–1969
Painted fibreglass, 21¾ x 91 x 73¼ (55.5 x 231 x 186).
Exh: Kasmin Gallery, May 1969; The Alistair Ale McAlpine Gift, Tate Gallery, June–August 1971 (44, repr. in colour).
Lit: Richard Morphet, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971 pp. 89–105.
T01380 is a unique piece.
Tucker’s principal works in 1966 were the ‘Four Part Sculptures’. In each of these, four identical cylinders were arranged in a different permutation, and laid close, and parallel, to the ground. In one piece the cylinders were laid parallel in a solid rank, their edges touching, while in another they formed a hollow square. In some works of 1967, transitional to the more complex ‘series A’ sculptures of 1968–9, the four cylinders, enlarged, become two rectilinear crosses. Each work in ‘series A’ employs, twice, a single form consisting of one long cylinder through which two shorter cylinders pass at right angles. The points of intersection between long and short cylinders are near (and equidistant from) the ends of the long one, which divides the shorter cylinders identically into protrusions of unequal length. The resulting form loosely resembles a figure H, or rugby football goalposts, in which the central bar protrudes slightly beyond the uprights. This form is always painted white, but the discs at its six extremities (clean, form-revealing points of cross section) are painted in another single colour, which is used at all twelve extremities in any single sculpture but varies from sculpture to sculpture. Also variable, within a single sculpture, is the length of the two identical shorter cylinders.
The constructional device of intersecting cylinders parallels that in Brancusi’s ‘Torso of a Young Man’, 1922. After the wholly discrete character of the cylinders in the ‘Four Part Sculptures’, Tucker was now returning to the principle of merged form central to his earlier development. The ‘series A’ sculptures are unusually complex in that joining and modelling occur both within the form and within the structure; characteristically, however, the forms, whether merged or attached, remain clearly articulated. The concept of one thing actually passing through another is recurrent in Tucker’s work, from ‘Union of Opposites’, 1962 (where each of the three smaller elements in a stack of four appears alternately to penetrate and to rest on top of those beneath it) through the ‘Meru’ series to its concrete exposition in ‘Karnak’ and ‘series A’. In ‘series A’ Tucker again constructs around an empty space.
In this series there is a deliberate contrast between the solidly structural character of the basic form and its deceptively casual, even precarious, deployment, hooked around or partially overlaying its near (cf. ‘Unfold’) mirror-image. These works are a paradigm of Tucker’s preoccupation with presenting a common element in contrasting ways; in the very process of appearing to lose it, the common form reveals more of its essential character.
Preparing a lecture on Matisse, the ‘Back’ reliefs had indicated to Tucker ways of using the wall without sacrificing an essentially sculptural quality, and in the last works directly related to the type of structure used in ‘ Series A’, forms lean against the wall as well as on the floor. From this position Tucker evolved the ‘shuttler’ Series of 1970, of which some works are reliefs and some free-standing.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.