View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Richard Tuttle came to prominence in the 1960s as part of a generation of Post-Minimalist artists. Along with his contemporaries including Bruce Nauman (born 1941; see Corridor with Mirror and White Lights, 1971, Tate T01753) and Eva Hesse (1936-1970; see Addendum, 1967, Tate T02394), Tuttle questioned the then dominant trends of Minimalism by embracing an improvisational approach to art-making using everyday, often ephemeral materials.
Tuttle is best known as an abstract painter and sculptor, although his practice also includes drawing, collage, design and printmaking. Censorship is one of several projects Richard Tuttle has undertaken since 2001with the American fine art print workshop ULAE (Universal Limited Art Editions). Censorship comprises seven hand-printed stone lithographs, the first prints of this kind made by the artist. Limestone was the traditional lithographic material although its use is less common today as printmakers more frequently use zinc plates which are cheaper and easier to use. However, purists consider stone lithography more authentic and stone produces the unique grain evidenced in these prints.
Tuttle’s oeuvre is known for its subtlety and lightness of touch. His work appears reserved and intimate at first and develops its poetic force only gradually. These prints are typical of his unassuming aesthetic and delicate style. Each work in the series is named after a day of the week; its title is embossed on the surface of the paper.
Saturday has arguably the simplest composition of the Censorship prints. Four dynamic segments of colour punctuate each of the corners of the page, leaving the centre of the print blank. The colour in the corners is composed of overlapping layers of blue, brown and purple.
Madeleine Grynsztejn has described Tuttle’s prints as ‘important as artworks unto themselves and as aesthetic stepping stones in the development of work in other media’ (Grynsztejn, ‘A Universe of Small Truths’, The Art of Richard Tuttle, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2005, p.64, n.132). The delicate use of smudged colour in the Censorship prints is echoed in the artist’s paintings from the early years of the twenty-first century, particularly the series 20 Pearls, 2003 (private collections).
Saturday was produced in an edition of thirty-four plus eight artist’s proofs. This copy is number twenty-six in the edition. The Censorship prints were published in a box designed by the artist and accompanied by a text in which he discusses the paradox of living with different concepts of time. He writes:
The Greeks gave us Kronos (unoriginary) and sequential (originary) time. We use them, unable to perceive them ... What comes before what originary comes after? To my surprise the answer is: a land of pure emptiness, of endless joys, happiness, peace and contentment, a place of youth, cheerful expectation and blissful fulfilment ... Is this shared by all? It can change the world from heaviness to lightness.
Tuttle has a longstanding interest in the subjective nature of time, or how sequential temporality coexists with a more philosophical notion of time as a concept. In these prints, as in all his work, he attempts to compress the instantaneous and the eternal.
Madeleine Grynsztejn (ed.), The Art of Richard Tuttle, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2005.
John Hutchinson, Richard Tuttle and Paul Nesbitt, Richard Tuttle: Grey Walls Work, exhibition catalogue, Camden Arts Centre, London; Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin and Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 1996.
Michael Auping, Richard Tuttle and Agnes Martin, Agnes Martin / Richard Tuttle, exhibition catalogue, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1998.