Richard Tuttle: 18 x 24 | Modern Art

Richard Tuttle’s art has consistently been defined - and derided - by the modesty of its means. Over an artistic career of almost 50 years, his wood reliefs, his single wires, his pencil marks on the wall have remained provocatively small-scale. But, taken together, I think there’s a hypnotic pull to his works. You can see for yourself with his latest collection, on show right now at Modern Art.

These new works are arrayed at eye level around the walls of the gallery. Each was made in the same way: Tuttle drew something or other onto 18x24 inch paper, hence the name of the show, cut it out, layered one or more pieces of polystyrene-like foam on top, and painted another design on the foam with bright acrylics.

Richard Tuttle - ‘18x24’: Installation View

The only thing left of the original drawing is a sliver of paper around the edge of the foam, almost obliterated. The foam shapes we can see instead are irregular, runic, like cave paintings from some obscure sect, recently unearthed. (Or maybe the cave feeling came from the unpleasantly humid and still atmosphere in the gallery, given I viewed the show on the first warm day of the year.)

Tuttle’s foam blocks are displayed in a row. So we’re encouraged to read them, left to right, like a line in a book. We can’t be sure what they mean, of course. Interpretations are as hard to find as the almost-obscured original paper drawings.

Richard Tuttle - ‘18x24’: Installation View

The works’ bright, serene colours, set on white foam backgrounds, must have been inspired by Tuttle’s surroundings. He made them at his studio in northern New Mexico, a place with a truly spectacular dry and mountainous landscape.

Or maybe these mysterious signs and symbols came from inside the artist’s head: from a mind that’s singular enough to display a collage of polystyrene and simple paint marks on a prestigious gallery’s walls and think, that’s enough.

The weird thing is, for this viewer at least - he’s right.

Richard Tuttle: 18 x 24 is at Modern Art (London). 26 April - 20 May 2023