Sunday, December 20, 2015

Miguel de Baca's "Memory Work: Anne Truitt and Sculpture"

Miguel de Baca is Associate Professor of Art History at Lake Forest College. He specializes in modern and contemporary American art history and American studies.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Memory Work: Anne Truitt and Sculpture, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Memory Work: Anne Truitt and Sculpture, I discuss Truitt’s use of small painted sketches on paper to work out a larger, sculptural problem having to do with what she called “lines of force” (essentially lines between colors on the painted surfaces of her sculptures). I link these sketches back to drawings Truitt made in Tokyo in 1965 and 1966, largely based on the memory of American white paled fences, which also hearken back to the subject of her first sculpture made in a minimalist style, First (1961)—a sculpture that is the subject of the first chapter of Memory Work.

Truitt’s three years in Japan were full of personal turmoil. The artist had emerged into the New York art world in 1963 with a much-vaunted solo debut at AndrĂ© Emmerich Gallery. The show was one of the very first to introduce minimalism, and Truitt was by all means a pioneer of this style. However, she moved to Tokyo in 1964 on account of her husband’s career in journalism, and this, I think, caused a great deal of worry about being able to keep up with her newfound success from half a world away. Her works on paper from this period reveal an anxious linkage to formal and conceptual tendencies that would be realized sculpturally later.

Indeed, until now, the sculptures that Truitt made in Japan have been understood as an anomaly in her practice, exacerbated by the artist’s own statements about the work, which she destroyed in the early 1970s. In Memory Work, however, I argue that Truitt’s time in Japan was a crucial bridge between her early work and the particolored wooden columns for which she is known and celebrated today. Particularly important is the theme of memory of landscapes, architecture, and geographies from both her personal past as well as American cultural history, as is plainly evident in her drawings. There is much to learn from the fact that Truitt resorted to memory in order to find her way through a present creative impasse.
Learn more about Memory Work at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue