September 24, 2015

Anne Truitt: Sumptuous Color

Rice-Paper Drawing [17], 1965, ink on Japanese rice paper, 12 1/4 x 9 in. 

It is a great visual pleasure to see a show in which color is so saturated and rich that it transcends paint's mere physicality. The works on paper in Anne Truitt in Japan at Matthew Marks gallery were all made when Truitt, mostly known as a sculptor, lived in Tokyo from 1964-67. Although she destroyed the sculpture she made while in Japan, these beautiful drawings remain, and she said of her time there:
If I had not gone to Japan, I would not know anything. I would not know what is what.

Rice-Paper Drawing [3], 1965, ink on Japanese rice paper, 12 1/4 x 9 in. 

In the first room of the gallery were five intensely colored small works on rice paper. The color was as though soaked into the textured paper, making an effect of subtle variation within each hue.

Rice-Paper Drawing [13], 1965, ink on Japanese rice paper, 12 1/4 x 9 in. 

The colors, the boundaries between shapes, the textures, invited you to come close and linger with the drawing.

Rice-Paper Drawing [15], 1965, ink on Japanese rice paper, 12 1/4 x 9 in. 

As with Ad Reinhardt's black paintings, the more you look at these small drawings, the more there is to see: differentiations in hues become visible.

Truitt '66 [20], 1966, acrylic and graphite on paper, 11 x 6 in.

Although my favorite works were the drawings with overall saturated color––the four drawings above and three at the end of this post––there were also works exploring color shapes. In [20] above, there is a careful balancing of a hue's weight: the light blue band at bottom adds air to the composition. This drawing reminds me of Truitt's columnar sculpture, with its bands of color.

Truitt '66 [11], 1966, acrylic on paper, 27 1/4 x 3 1/8 in.

Truitt pushed the idea of shape into new dimensions: a very long, narrow rectangle is animated and  made more present by orange and blue-gray color shapes descending it; our eye has no trouble navigating the extreme length of this small drawing.

Truitt '66 [11] detail

At an intersection, the orange paint is handled differently on the top and bottom, a detail that creates solidity in a two dimensional work.

Truitt '66 [7], 1966, acrylic on paper, 1 x 27 1/2 in. 

I was so intrigued by these long narrow shapes and how Truitt was able to create a viable composition across them. We almost feel the dark blue dipping below the edge of the paper and swooping back up again.

Truitt '67 [6], 1967, acrylic on paper, 27 1/2 x 41 in. 

There is a just-rightness about the way the pink and green shapes abut and balance each other on a white sheet of paper.

Installation view at Matthew Marks gallery, of drawings pictured below.

Truitt '67 [6] was in the same room as three very saturated works. The image above gives a sense of the size of the drawings.

Truitt '67 [21], 1967, acrylic on paper, 27 1/2 x 41 in.

Truitt '67 [33], 1967, acrylic on paper, 27 1/2 x 41 in.

Truitt '67 [20], 1967, acrylic on paper, 27 1/2 x 41 in.

These three drawings are deep and luscious explorations of color. Their intensity gave me a sense of being enveloped and transported by color. As with the drawings on rice paper, the subtlety of the color/shape variations demanded attentive viewing; although not large, there was a feeling of boundless space. In 1965 Truitt wrote in her private papers:
What is important to me is not geometrical shape per se, or color per se, but to make a relationship between shape and color which feels to me like my experience. To make what feels to me like reality. 
 (Thanks to Plug Projects Blog for the quote.)


  1. Such beautiful work. thanks for reminding us. I adored her work t hen and her book. It remains fresh and new (both the work and the book)

  2. How wonderful! Thank you for posting this -- I hope I can get in to see them!

  3. Thank you Altoon. These are so inspiring. Based on your photographs, it appears as if some of the works were not exhibited in frames. Is that true? If so, could you tell how they were hung?

  4. Thanks for reading and looking, Lynda, Ravenna, and Cathy; I'm happy you like this work too.
    Cathy, all the work was framed; I chose not to show the frames in the photos I took, except for the installation shot.

  5. her work is wonderful. i know her sculpture better than work on paper. these are so lovely. so simple. so rich. thanks so much for posting. loved seeing these Altoon.

  6. You're very welcome, Suzan and g. It was a pleasure to see, photograph, and think about this work.

  7. Gorgeous! Thanks for posting this, Altoon.

  8. As I looked at them on line, I slowly became aware of their delicate 'shadows' of color which I found very
    subtle and enchanting. I will rush to see this show. Thanks Altoon.

    1. When you see the actual work, Sallie, many more subtleties will be revealed. Enjoy!