Richard Smith

Cartouche II -10


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Not on display
Richard Smith 1931–2016
Acrylic paint, canvas, metal and fabric
Support: 1359 x 2972 mm
Purchased 1980

Catalogue entry

T03060 CARTOUCHE II-10 1979

Inscribed ‘R. Smith 79’ b.r. on front panel
3 panels of cotton handmade paper and cloth suspended on aluminium tubes with cotton twine threaded through brass eyelets
Dimensions of panels, 19 1/4 × 19 1/4 (48.89 × 48.89); 19 1/2 × 36 (49.53 × 91.44); 19 1/2 × 52 1/2 (49.53 × 133.35); overall dimensions including twine, 45 3/4 × 60 × 2 5/8 (116.2 × 152.4 × 5.9)
Purchased from the Knoedler Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Exh: Richard Smith New Paper Works, Knoedler Gallery, February–March 1980 (no catalogue)

This is one of a series of fifty-five original pulp paper works Richard Smith made between June 1979 and January 1980. It was the first time he had worked in this medium and the pieces were made in collaboration with Kenneth Tyler, Lindsay Green and Steve Reeves at the Tyler Graphics paper mill in Bedford, New York. Kenneth Tyler, previously founding partner and master printer of the Gemini Press in Los Angeles, founded Tyler Graphics in 1973 and his research into and knowledge of the paper making process has led to collaborations with such artists as Kenneth Noland, Ellsworth Kelly and David Hockney, all of whom have made pulp paper works at the Tyler workshop.

Richard Smith chose ‘Cartouche’ as the generic title for the series because, when the works were first assembled, they reminded him of those heroic reliefs incorporating, for example, flags or scrolls of poetry and he remembered that ‘cartouche’ was the architectural term used to describe such ornamentation: the term was doubly appropriate because it derives from the Latin, carta, or paper.

The ‘Cartouche’ series is divided into five categories according to the number of panels used and the format in which they are designed to be suspended. Each category is denoted by a Roman Numeral and the works within each category are marked sequentially by an arabic number. ‘Cartouche I’ and ‘Cartouche II’ each comprise fifteen sets of three overlapping panels of approximately the same dimensions as those in T03060, designed to be suspended vertically in category I and horizontally in category II. ‘Cartouche III’, comprising a set of eight two-panel works, each panel measuring 53 × 16 inches, is hung in a cross configuration and ‘Cartouche V’ comprises thirteen two-panel works hung diagonally, each panel measuring 53 × 17 inches. The fourth category contains four three-panel works, arranged vertically, each panel measuring 53 × 19 1/2 inches.

Forty of the fifty-five works in the series were first seen publicly in three exhibitions held in the first quarter of 1980. The Knoedler Gallery, exhibited ‘Cartouche I–10’, 14; II–5, 10, 12; III–4, 7; IV–I; V–4, 10 (February 4–March 3); the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, ‘Cartouche I–1,’ 6, 7, 8, 9, 15; II–2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 15; III–3, 5; IV–3, 4; V–1, 2, 12 (February 8–March 19) and the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, New York, ‘Cartouche I–II’, 13; II–I, 4, 13; III–3, 8; IV–2; V–3, II (March 4–April 22).

The catalogue for the exhibition at the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery contains a foreword by Smith and a description of how the works were made, by Kenneth Tyler. In his foreword the artist stated (p.5), ‘I had thought that the process of making paper would match my formal vocabulary very closely. The making of stencils or screens in squares and rectangles, in shapes and proportions that we familiarly accept in paper are the shapes I use in my paintings. The thinness of the paper is consistent with the thinness of the unsupported canvas in the paintings which do not have the implied objectness of canvas tacked to wooden stretcher bars. The pouring of pulp on the paper mould screens was a very natural process, something I found direct and right and not a substitute for a brush. The results hold the intentions. The way the pulp is poured gives direction and pulse to the paper in an equivalent of a painted surface and contrasts with the perfection of paper as it is pulled from the vat.’ To make the ‘Cartouche’ series, Smith and his assistants used a selection of colour pulps, made from cotton fibres and Kozo, a fibre harvested from the bark of a small tree indigenous to the Far East. The bark is chemically treated, cleaned and softened by soaking, then mixed with water to form a pulp. The artist described (loc. cit.) the unpressed pulp as resembling a thin layer of snow, which, after pressing, formed a varied, though homogeneous surface.

Each panel was made in the following way. A newly formed sheet of white paper was transferred from its mould by pressure onto a sheet of felt, this process being referred to as couching in papermaking. Next, a wet piece of dyed cotton fabric was stretched over the base sheet and a further sheet of paper was couched onto the fabric. Afterwards, smaller shaped papers were added and the artist applied colour pulps and dyes by hand. In some cases, the fabric layer was dyed and dried so that the dye remained fast when the fabric was applied to paper; in others, the dyed fabric was applied wet so that the colour penetrated through subsequent layers of paper. When the multi-layered sheets had been hydraulically pressed, dried and trimmed, Smith punched a metal eyelet through the four corners of each panel. Each panel is supported on a crossed framework of two aluminium tubes attached by cotton twine and suspended from a hanging string attached to a plastic ring.

Since 1972 Smith has concentrated his investigation of the relationship between illusionistic painted space and three-dimensional architectural space in banner-like works which deliberately advertise their fragility and materiality, laying emphasis on the way in which the painted surfaces are joined to their supports or suspended. The ‘Cartouche’ series with their simple motifs, overlapping rectangular or circular shapes in bright saturated reds, purples, pinks, blues or greens, arranged in deliberately “casual” configurations, can be seen as the direct successors of such large multipart canvas works as ‘Five Finger Exercise’ (1976) and ‘Working Week’ (1979).

This entry has been read and approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981

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