William Tucker b. 1935
T01375 Meru II 1964
Painted fabricated steel, 37¿ x 91½ x 16¿ (96 x 232.5 x 41).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Coll: R. Rowan; Alistair McAlpine.
Exh: Richard Feigen Gallery, New York, December 1964; New Generation, Whitechapel Art Gallery, March–April 1965 (25); Primary Structures, Jewish Museum, New York, April–June 1966 (45); The Gregory Fellows, Leeds City Art Gallery, November–December 1969 (5); The Alistair Ale Alpine Gift, Tate Gallery, June–August 1971 (39, repr. in colour).
Lit: Richard Morphet, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971, pp. 89–105.
T01375 is one of an edition of three; another is in the collection of the Galleria dell’ Ariete, Milan.
In the three ‘Meru’ sculptures of 1964 a symmetrical rectilinear podium form with two steps on either side of the highest level, is crossed with a regular and continuous curve. In ‘Meru I’ (T01060) the curve moves across the sculpture from front to back permitting the rectilinear form to be expressed in steel plate without volume. Contrasting colours are used to distinguish inside from outside. In ‘Meru II’ the curve flows in the same up and down direction as the steps; the sculpture thus becomes three-dimensional in the area between the curve and rectilinear line. Colour changes at each horizontal, distinguishing the three levels. The sculpture’s construction from five elements, four of which share the same shape and two of their dimensions, is thus made explicit; and this in turn accentuates the strangeness of a structure built round a central void. The front view of ‘Meru II’ presents its dual theme in diagrammatic outline; viewed from the end, the undulating curves derive unexpected movement or pace and an unnatural sense of distance from a progressive lightening of colour and narrowing of width. The curve in ‘Meru III’ is modelled three-dimensionally; the central void is thus unusually strongly expressed as a positive form. As the form is complex the work is painted a single colour; in Tucker’s work it is unusual to find three-dimensionally modulated form painted at all, for the role of colour in his work is as a modulator of surface, and two forms of surface modulation in a single work would usually make, for Tucker, too impure a whole. The colour in ‘Meru III’ is, however, cool and light, and is used primarily to bond the form as a whole. Across the ‘back’ of the sculpture, the curved volume is sliced away flat—a characteristic device of Tucker’s (to clarify structure and reveal unexpected formal truths) which is seen, for example, in ‘Margin I’ and ‘series A, No.1’, the earliest and latest works in this group. The sculptural image revealed by making such a cross-section (or equally by projecting in three dimensions a chosen linear shape) has both the freshness of lack of contrivance and the relevance of being wholly inherent in the form. In a similar way, where Tucker may be able to a large extent to visualise the ‘front’ and ‘side’ aspects of the final form of a sculpture made by fusing two distinct gestalts, the elusive and complex three-quarter view is often especially revealing of the sculpture’s character.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.