Royal Academy of Arts Annual Lecture; Richard Tuttle in conversation with Richard Shiff

Richard Tuttle was discussing his work with Richard Shiff (Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Texas) at the Royal Academy of Arts.

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Shiff started the conversation by introducing Tuttle’s piece “3rd Rope Piece” (1974) as seen above.

In a conversation years, ago Tuttle had not recognised his own work from Shiff’s description. This piece had been widely documented, but it turned out that the photograph was taken when the piece had been installed by technicians in London (I think it was at Whitechapel Gallery). After Shiff’s ‘wrong’ description of the piece, Tuttle made the effort to have the piece re-documented after he had installed it. Tuttle felt that the rope in the first piece was just too perfect… un-worn and therefor didn’t do what he wanted it to do, although the 3inch rope was hung 3inches above the floor with three nails, as he had stipulated.

Tuttle said in relation to the piece; Piet Mondrian noted that his lines continued forever. Barnett Newman noted that his lines stopped at the canvas. His own rope piece pinned to the wall does neither; it becomes flat.

Other quick notes of Tuttles statements from the lecture that I uncovered in my sketch book;

  • …beauty is unavoidable, but art is not (when the artist creates).
  • …love and beauty are the enemy of art.
  • …an art work has a visual part, and an invisible part, and the later is more important.
  • …defination of matter is the work of art.
  • …making art with disembodied hands (referring to taking part in a craft seminar where all was talking about embodied hands).
  • …not guided by the work, following it instead.

That evening in January, I had made my way to the RA to listen to an established artist talking about his work. Walking away at the end of the evening I was happy to have been introduced to Professor Richard Shiff. His questions were informed and engaging, creating a ballroom that any artist would be happy to dance in.


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About Andrea Jespersen

I am a visual artist with a practice that explores how conceptual deliberations and the hand made can co-exist. Check my website for documentation of artworks.

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