Following on from his 40-foot fabric Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern two years ago, American artist Richard Tuttle returns to London with two solo shows of work on a smaller, quieter scale. Where, frankly, he seems much more comfortable.
Old Street space Modern Art is exhibiting a sizeable number of assemblages made out of scrappy bits and pieces: tape-bandaged card, offcuts of balsa, polystyrene balls, tacks – basically, the sort of stuff an artist might scrape off the floor of their studio. Tuttle isn’t one for chewing the scenery: instead, he makes work whose unassuming lyricism comes from a delicate interplay of colours, textures, materials and gestures. A coral-pink fold against a teal-blue splatter; crinkled crêpe paper against snipped neoprene.
In contrast to this rag-tag stuff, a more self-defined series of work is on display at Pace in Mayfair: five long, rectangular wall pieces, each made up four separate sections of fabric. They vaguely resemble banners, or something heraldic, except that Tuttle keeps everything (somewhat wilfully at times) in the realm of abstraction. Nothing is ever quite this or that. Perhaps they’re more like those quilts that succeeding generations of a family each work on, such is the slow-burn feeling his work inspires. You can tell he’s a daydreamer; he also writes poetry, and the one on the wall here is a contemplative little ode to light and darkness, the most positive thing to be said about which is that it would probably get top marks in a GCSE creative writing module.
Which is a bit mean, but Tuttle is a late-career artist so thoroughly immersed in his brand of folksy post-minimalism that he needs calling out whenever duds fly off the wheel. And to be fair, those duds are few and far between. The rest is quietly captivating.