Richard Tuttle, 'Two or More XII', 1984 © Richard Tuttle. Photo: Alex Delfanne
29 Nov – 8 Feb 2015

Richard Tuttle

This resource has been produced to accompany the exhibition, ‘Richard Tuttle’, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.

This resource has been produced to accompany the exhibition, ‘Richard Tuttle’, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.

About Richard Tuttle
Richard Tuttle is an American artist who works in sculpture; he was born in New Jersey in 1941. He currently has three exhibitions in the UK; as well as Hauser & Wirth Somerset, his work can be seen at the Whitechapel Gallery: ‘Richard Tuttle: I Don’t Know, or The Weave of Textile Language’, October 14 to December 14,, and the Turbine Hall commission, Tate Modern, London, October 14 to April 6 2015,

What does his work look like?
Tuttle’s sculptures are often wall-mounted and small in scale; they may also be described as collages or three-dimensional drawings. Everyday materials such as: string, cloth, or plywood are carefully assembled and modelled. They look like great attention has been given to their assembly; this is reinforced by their modest size.

What are his main themes?
One of Tuttle’s main themes is visual perception. He is interested in language as determining the contexts in which we see things. He wants us to notice things that we cannot see, such as both sides of a surface, or the space between two things.

Richard Tuttle, 'Secret Ways to Remain Happy, No. 1', 1986 © Richard Tuttle. Photo: Alex Delfanne

How does he make his work?
Tuttle makes his work with materials such as chicken wire, aluminium foil, scraps of plywood and fabric. Materials are assembled together in a very careful way, small items are added to make details and alter surfaces. Once completed Tuttle then considers where he places the work, either high or low on the wall, directing the light and shadow to define the work even further.

What inspires his work?
Tuttle’s chosen materials inspire him. The materials come from humble beginnings and go through a curious transformation, concerned with line, volume, colour, texture and shape. This visual language seems to have a lot in common with painting, poetry and sculpture but at the same time the small objects produced don’t really fit the description of any of these practices. Tuttle most often refers to his work as drawing. The inspirations for his work come from a thoughtful relationship with materials; there is such a deep sense of contemplation in each of his sculptures.

Does he work in any other ways?
Stemming from Tuttle’s interest in calligraphy and his interest poetry, and language, he loves books and printed matter. Tuttle has created artist’s books, collaborated on the design of exhibition catalogues, and he works as a printmaker.

What other artist’s work does it relate to?
Tuttle’s art was first shown in America in the 1960’s and was exhibited alongside Minimalism and the work of Agnes Martin and Richard Serra. However, the work he produces seems to have a different agenda to minimalism, as sort of visual poetry in the way components are composed into assemblages. It can also be related to Pop Art, particularly the work of Rauschenberg, Oldenburg or Jasper Johns.

Richard Tuttle, 'Two or More IX', 1984 © Richard Tuttle. Photo: Alex Delfanne


Assemblage in art is used to describe a two-dimensional or three-dimensional composition made from a mixture of different or found material. Other artists to consider: Dieter Roth.

Calligraphy is a form of writing. Often produced with a brush or a broad tipped pen, the writing appears more designed or painted than simply written and thus is still used for instructions and wedding invitations for example.

Very generally, Construction describes methods of forming material or immaterial objects. In art and design, it is used to describe the way something has been put together. Dan Graham is known for architectural pavilions that he often constructs from glass, see more here.


Minimalism is an art movement that developed in New York in the early 1960s. Many artists began to create objects, which often blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture, and started to employ industrial materials in order to be interpreted as neutral rather than expressive. A contemporary artist who used some minimalist approaches is Takesada Matsutani.

Pop Art
Art made in America and Britain from the mid 1950s and 1960s often drew inspiration from popular and even literally borrowed motifs and symbols from everyday life. Pop art includes artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and David Hockney. You may wish to consider the work of Pipilotti Rist in this context.


Suggested Activities During your Visit

Note: you will need to bring pencils and a sketchbook.

Activity 1
Before you enter the gallery get into pairs. One person is blindfolded and holding paper and a pencil. The other person must guide them into the gallery, find a suitable position and describe one of the sculptures; the blindfolded person produces a drawing from the description.

Activity 2
Richard Tuttle makes his work from contrasting materials; list as many words as you can to identify the contrasts you can see.

Activity 3
Produce a drawing of four different layers. Firstly, produce a line drawing to map the negative space around one of the works. Secondly, on top of the line drawing draw the textures of the different materials. Thirdly, fill-in your drawing to show the different tones and finally, draw a line drawing to show the over-all shape of the work you are looking at.


Practical Activity Prompts & Ideas for Discussion Following your Visit

Key Stage 1, 2 and 3
Find four different materials: soft, hard, narrow and transparent (e.g. sponge, wood, wire and clingfilm). Produce you own assemblage or 3D drawing.

Key Stage 4 and beyond
Tuttle’s  work is described as assemblage, construction, collage and drawing. What is  the difference between painting and sculpture; drawing and collage? Interesting artists to consider are: Victor Pasmore, Ben Nicholson or Kurt Schwitters – can you find examples of your own?


Supplementary Research

Richard Tuttle: I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language.

Richard Tuttle at Whitechapel Gallery.

Causey, Andrew, Sculpture Since 1945, Oxford Paperbacks, 1998.

Curtis, Penelope, Sculpture, 1900-45: After Rodin, Oxford Paperbacks, 1999. Trusted, Marjorie, The Making of Sculpture, V & A Publications, 2007.

Tucker, William, The Language of Sculpture Thames & Hudson; 1977.

Waite-Brown, Claire, The Sculpting Techniques Bible: An Essential Illustrated Reference for Both Beginner and Experienced Sculptors, Chartwell Books, 2006.


Inspiring Websites That May Help with Your Research

13 sculptures made from found objects

Drawings made with string



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