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THIS PAGE: Roler-coasters   Blue Moon   Thick   Tuttlesque

Norm's Reviews

by Norman Kary

New Norm reviews Charlotte Smith's Fall at Cris Worley and Lance Letscher's Pregunta Numbero Uno at Conduit in autumn 2013.

Norman Kary's latest story about Vernon Fisher's show at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is called The Story-teller Paints a Book.

To be Tuttlesque

Richard Tuttle, K 1, 1981, mixed media, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam,
© Richard Tuttle, Photo courtesy Stedelijk Museum  purloined from the Dallas Museum of Art web site

Richard Tuttle is an artist of rare gifts, a performer with the ability to confound and resist. His work over the years has ranged from a simple twist of wire on a nail, to painted tree branches wrapped in light cords with aluminum foil, and foam core propped against the wall ready to topple over at any time.

His show at the Dallas Museum is one of the most intellectually challenging shows to come along in years, but the crowds of people waiting for tickets at the front door the Friday night I happened to visit were walking in droves past his exhibit in the main vault to the Tiffany Show down the hall.

They seem to care less that this guy who arranges rough-cut wood shapes on plywood, paints them with a few random colors, and presents it in a square pattern on the wall, has anything interesting to say, much less to look at. And in many ways they are absolutely correct.

Who is this guy who thinks he can take a piece of molding, cut a 45 degree angle at one end and prop it against the wall and say it's Art?

Richard Tuttle - Village IV No. III,6   from Sperone Westworks

Quirky, eccentric, elusive — these are a few of the words used to describe Tuttle. He studied literature and philosophy at Cooper Union in 1963, and he enjoys thought-provoking paradox.

"I make form out of material, but I also make material out of form," Tuttle told Art News writer Paul Gardner for the April 2004 issue. It may be difficult to categorize his work as drawing, sculpture or assemblage, but Tuttle feels that art should have no categorical limitations, and for this reason many people categorically reject his work as art.

Amazingly enough the installation of soldered tin alphabet letters sold at auction to MoMA for $1 million. His Show at Sperone Westwater last year was a sellout. Even he admits it's been a long haul from his early works of the 60s when the same work went for $450 on average.

I am not so much impressed with his paintings on raw plywood, although some have an interesting use of line and color combination, as I am with his varied use of a multitude of 'random' material. Monkey's Recovery for a Darkened Room (bluebird) — wood wire, acrylic, mat board, string, and cloth — forces your attention on a vertical tree branch painted blue, attached to the wall by a red wire that is wrapped around it at various points forming a rough rectangle.

Within its perimeter, odd bits of green and red paper and wire adhere themselves to bits of rectangular wood slates (painted white on one side) dangling end to end with a loop of wire like a necklace.

Richard Tuttle - The Last Light Work   private collection - from Sperone Westworks

Reading the piece was like following a road map on a cross-country tour. By the time you arrive you feel like you've seen all the highlights, side streets and monuments. What does it all mean?

Well, that all depends on why you took the trip. It's like asking why you just went on vacation. Everyone has their reasons. Some of us could have stayed longer. Some of us thought it lasted too long.

For Tuttle, it means looking for disarmingly informal elements that can crinkle, wrinkle, tear and stain. As for myself, I plan to visit again. This time I'm turning the map upside down and starting at the destination.

The Tuttle show continues through October 8 at the Dallas Museum of Art, which did not return our email request for images, but photographs of more Tuttle works are online atSperone Westwater (click "more") and Artnet.

Thick with texture and Objects

Amsel Kiefer's show at the Fort Worth Modern through January 8, 2006

Anself Kiefer - Book With Wings, 1992-93
lead, tin and steel 74 x 208 x 43 inches


If you don't see another museum show this year, you really must see this one.

With an accolade like that I know what you're thinking, "You're setting me up for a big disappointment," but you're as wrong as you can be.

Even if you feel that you know Kiefer's work from viewing magazines or catalogs, until you've stood in front of one of these goliaths, you can't say you've been there. I attended Michael Auping's lecture and gained additional insight into this magnificent artist, but again the slides and discussion did not do justice to the reality of these works.

There was time that night to tour the show, and it was laid out in roughly chronological order, beginning with the familiar work of the Mid-Seventies and continuing through the Nineties and into territory I had never seen before.

I had seen his large lead books arranged in huge bookracks (High Priestess). Some were open in glass cases displaying vintage black and white photo's of brick factories, clouds, plowed fields, and broken stairways. Some were just stacked up on steel pallets enticing us to open them.

As wonderful as these pieces were, the paintings are the real high point of this show. They are thick with texture and objects. Most were landscapes, some with sunflower seeds swirling in dull skies, some with harvested fields laying bare in Winter snow; others have the artist lying bare-chested on the ground meditating on a starring filled sky.

With titles such as The Heavenly Palaces, Heaven on Earth, and In the Beginning, Kiefer's theme of spirituality is certainly no obscure subject matter.

The work that took my breath away was installed in the same room that previously had Martin Puryear's Endless Ladder. It was Die Himmelpalaste, standing 24 feet tall and 18 feet across. As you walk toward it you see cinder block columns that form a room with a floor but no ceiling.

As you get closer your eye is drawn to that ceiling. It is a night sky filled with so many stars it made me momentarily dizzy. I felt as though I was looking into the beginning of Time.


Roller-coasters & Dialogues

I have been anticipating this show since July. At the opening Sunday September 4, I glanced at the poster and felt like I was about to step into a theater to see a Spielberg movie with Hanks, Cruise, Nicholson and Depp.

A silent movie awaited me, complete with seats and a big screen. On screen was a funeral procession with the mourners running in hot pursuit of a cortege rolling wildly up and down hills and dales.

After a lengthy roller coaster ride through the country, the coffin falls out of the wagon and rolls to rest in a field. Everyone catches their breath as they stand around it, amazed they were able to finally catch up. To their astonishment the coffin lid starts to open, slowly ... and ... well you'll have to see for yourself.

But the rest of the show is very much a series of boxes to look into, mysteries to solve, and clues to follow. Most of the work was loaned from the Robert and Marguerite Hoffman Collection, and although it is a nice collection, there is not enough of it to satisfy.

There are two great Cornell works (Parrot Music Box and Object) that are fun to see close up and examine. Besides the usual Johns work that have been seen many times, one was a refreshing new piece (Hoffman Collection) I had never seen before called Water Freezes.

The only Rauschenberg piece of any interest was Revolver with its noisy machine sounds and visual movements. Duchamp's notes and Valises were great to see and explore. I wish the notes were translated, so you could read what they said.

All and all it was nice to see The Museum attempt a show of this calibre. It begs for more and better examples of these great artists. The DMA did as good as it could with its limited resources.

The show is called Dialogues, and it does have the feel of these artists having a philosophical dialogue that is, to say the least, intriguing.

Norman Kary

Who makes boxes and is a big fan of Joseph Cornell


Once in a Blue Moon — The DMA lives up

I am not fond of the DMA. So whenever I can not support them in any way, I do. BUT every once in a full moon I come by (like a free Thursday night) to see if they are living down to their low standard of Art to view.

This time was different. I spent 2.5 hours there and missed seeing the other places I intended to be.

There is video; there is installation; there is photography and above all there was a lot of DRAWING. Not all great but well worth a Thursday Night's viewing pleasure.

Norman Kary


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