Dayton on Tuttle, Eakins and Arkansas

Post by Dayton Castleman

One of you mentioned that if I ever saw anything interesting in Chicago to send you a little something on it. Here’s that something. The show is Richard Tuttle, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The personal irony is that, until this week, Tuttle was filed under “L” for loathe in my personal catalog of art and artists. I confess that this had more to do with an embarrassing art-handling experience that involved tip-toeing around with a shard of broken plywood wearing white cotton gloves like I was on a bomb squad, than actually taking a good look at Tuttle’s body of work.

Richard Tuttle
Richard Tuttle
“’Village III, No. I, 21’”
Acrylic and graphite on paper with oak frame, 17 5/8 x 14 3/4 x 1 1/4 inches
Collection Mr. and Mrs. Peter Shaw, Philadelphia, PA
Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York

The show includes work from the mid-sixties up through the present, and, going in with unrealistically low expectations, I was blown away by it. The art really comes alive when seen within the context of forty years of his work. The connections and subtleties only really become apparent when you can view a lifetime of work in just a few hours. There was no photography allowed, so I won’t mention any particular pieces, but the show was fabulous and well worth a stop if any Philadelphians happen to be in Chicago! The exhibition runs through February 4. Now I have to go and apologize to all of my intelligent artist friends for years of bad-mouthing Richard Tuttle.

Richard Tuttle
Richard Tuttle
“’20 Pearls (8)’”
Acrylic on museum board and archival foamcore, 19 3/4 x 16 1/4 inches
Collection Byron R. Meyer, San Francisco
Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York

[Ed note: for more on Tuttle see PBS’s Art 21. Also, I want to remind everyone that the ICA did a big project with Tuttle in 2001 that concentrated on the artist’s work from 1998-2001 and included a catalog. Libby and I had our own negative reaction to Tuttle triggered by the ICA exhibit and especially by the catalog which seemed cloying and a little puffed up. So we produced a poster parody that was our critique. Our poster was mailed to a few art lovers in Philadelphia as a gift.]

Richard Tuttle/Fallon and Rosof
Fallon and Rosof poster (2001) parodying a page from the Richard Tuttle catalog from the ICA’s 2001 project/exhibition.

Meanwhile, back to Dayton and his thoughts on Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic and Arkansas

Oh, and here’s an another little thing… a letter to the editor, if you will. My folks live in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, just a few miles from Bentonville, future home of Crystal Bridges Museum, and, as things stand currently, The Gross Clinic. My mom has sent me articles on the museum from the local newspaper over the last couple of years (me being the artist son, y’know), and I’ve been delighted that they’d have a quality art museum nearby. I am not happy about the sale of the Gross Clinic, however, and plan on donating a little to try to keep it in Philly. I actually had the opportunity to handle it when it went to the Eakins show at the PMA, and when the frame was restored.

Thomas Eakins
The Gross Clinic. Help keep it in Philadelphia!

The Artblog has been pretty benevolent in its coverage of the sale, while being understandably frustrated by it. There are a few things floating around, however, that pretty grossly (no pun intended) stereotype the region. You know, the whole Wal-Mart-Right-Wing-Redneck-Kinkade-conspiracy thing. The word “plunder” has been used a bit. I guess I missed the invading Arkansan army when I moved — good thing I got my wife and daughter out! The defensive southerner in me wants to say that if these folks are so backward, how did they manage to “plunder” one of this city’s masterpieces? (They even plundered the New York Public Library!) They’re not backward, of course, or stealing, but just building a museum from what others are willing to sell. As for me, for my parents’ sake at least, I’m glad they are going to get a great collection of American art. I don’t hope they get the Gross Clinic. I’d like to see it stay in Philadelphia. If it happens, however, I’ll say hello from The City of Brotherly Love when I’m at the folks’ for Thanksgiving.

Dayton Castleman is a former Philadelphia artist now based in Chicago getting his MFA from the Art Institute. Here’s a couple posts we wrote here and here about his windmills project in the Broad Street Ministries.