A Wall for Apricots, 1968
March 16, 1921|
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Died||December 23, 2004
Washington, DC, U.S.
|Field||Sculpture, Color Field|
Anne Truitt (March 16, 1921 – December 23, 2004), born Anne Dean, was a major American artist of the mid-20th century.
She married James Truitt in 1948 (they divorced in 1969), and she became a full-time artist in the 1950s. A protégée of art critic Clement Greenberg in her youth, she worked within an extremely limited set of variables throughout her five-decade career. She made what is considered her most important work in the early 1960s anticipating in many respects the work of minimalists like Donald Judd and Ellsworth Kelly. She was unlike minimalists in some significant ways.
Early life and education
Truitt grew up in Easton, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and spent her teenage years in Asheville, North Carolina. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in psychology in 1943. She declined an offer to pursue a Ph.D. in Yale University’s psychology department and worked briefly as a nurse in a psychiatric ward at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. She left the field of psychology in the mid-1940s, first writing fiction and then enrolling in courses offered by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Washington, D.C.
After leaving the field of clinical psychology in the mid-1940s, Truitt began making figurative sculptures, but turned toward reduced geometric forms after seeing works by Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt in 1961. Truitt's first wood sculpture, titled First (1961), consists of three white vertical slates rooted in a block ground, each coming to a point and braced to each other at the rear, resembling a fragment of a picket fence. During a period spent in Japan with her husband, who at the time was the Japan bureau chief for Newsweek, she created aluminum sculptures from 1964 to 1967 Before her first retrospective in New York she decided she did not like the works and destroyed them.
The sculptures that made her significant to the development of Minimalism were aggressively plain and painted structures, often large. Fabricated from wood and painted with monochromatic layers of acrylic, they often resemble sleek, rectangular columns or pillars. She applied multiple coats, alternating brushstrokes between horizontal and vertical directions and sanding between layers. The artist sought to remove any trace of her brush, sanding down each layer of paint between applications and creating perfectly finished planes of colour. The recessional platform under her sculpture raised them just enough off the ground that they appeared to float on a thin line of shadow. The boundary between sculpture and ground, between gravity and verticality, was made illusory. This formal ambivalence is mirrored by her insistence that color itself, for instance, contained a psychological vibration which when purified, as it is on a work of art, isolates the event it refers to as a thing rather than a feeling. The event becomes a work of art, a visual sensation delivered by color. The Arundel series of paintings, begun in 1973, features barely visible graphite lines and accumulations of white paint on white surfaces. In the custard-color Ice Blink (1989), a tiny sliver of red at the bottom of the painting is enough to set up perspectival depth, as is a single bar of purple at the bottom of the otherwise sky-blue Memory (1981). Begun around 2001, the Piths, canvases with deliberately frayed edges and covered in thick black strokes of paint, indicate Truitt’s interest in forms that blur the lines between two and three dimensions.
Truitt is also known for three books she wrote, Daybook, Turn, and Prospect, all journals. In Prospect, her third volume of reflections, Truitt set out to reconsider her "whole experience as an artist"—and also as a daughter, mother, grandmother, teacher and lifelong seeker. For many years she was associated with the University of Maryland, College Park, where she was a professor, and the artists' colony Yaddo, where she served as interim president.
Truitt died December 23, 2004 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., of complications following abdominal surgery. She was survived by three children and eight grandchildren, among them writer Charles Finch.
Fielding, H. (2011) M ultiple Moving Perceptions of the Real: Arendt, Merleau-Ponty, and Truitt (pages 518–534) This paper explores the ethical insights provided by Anne Truitt's minimalist sculptures, as viewed through the phenomenological lenses of Hannah Arendt's investigations into the co-constitution of reality and Maurice Merleau-Ponty's investigations into perception. Artworks in their material presence can lay out new ways of relating and perceiving. Truitt's works accomplish this task by revealing the interactive motion of our embodied relations and how material objects can actually help to ground our reality and hence human potentiality. Merleau-Ponty shows how our prereflective bodies allow incompossible perceptions to coexist. Yet this same capacity of bodies to gather multiple perceptions together also lends itself to the illusion that we see from only one perspective. If an ethical perspective becomes reified into one position, it then becomes detached from reality, and the ethical potential is actually lost. At the same time, phenomenologically understood, the real world does not exist in terms of static matter, but is instead a web of contextual relations and meanings. An ethics that does not take embodied relations into account—that allows for only one perspective—ultimately loses its capacity for flexibility, and for being part of a common and shared reality.
Truitt's first one-person exhibition was at the André Emmerich Gallery, New York, in February 1963, and in many senses her work also hews to what was emerging there. In Washington her work was represented by Pyramid Gallery which later became the Osuna Gallery. Her work was included in the 1964 exhibition, "Black, White, and Gray," at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Ct, arguably the first exhibition of Minimal work. She was one of only three women included in the influential 1966 exhibition, Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum in New York. Her work has since been the subject of one-person exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1973); the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1974); and the Baltimore Museum of Art (1974, 1992). In 2009, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., organized an acclaimed retrospective of her work, including 49 sculptures and 35 paintings and drawings.
Works in Collections
- 'Summer Treat', 1968, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson
District of Columbia
- 'Pilgrim', 1979, Arnold & Porter LLC, Washington
- 'Flower', 1969, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington
- 'Insurrection', 1962, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington
- '13 October 1973', 1973, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington
- 'Night Naiad', 1977, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington
- 'Mid-Day', 1972, National Gallery of Art, Washington
- 'Spume', 1972, National Gallery of Art, Washington
- 'Summer Dryad', 1971, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington
- '17th Summer', 1974, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington
- 'Keep', 1962, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington
- 'Ship-Lap', 1962, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Watauga', 1962, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Whale's Eye', 1969, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Three', 1962, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'A Wall for Apricots', 1968, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Meadow Child', 1969, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Odeskalki', 1963/82, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Parva IV', 1974, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Lea', 1962, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Carson', 1963, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
- 'Moon Lily', 1988, Academy Art Museum, Easton
- 'Summer '88 No. 25', 1988, Academy Art Museum, Easton
- 'Hesperides', 1989, Academy Art Museum, Easton
- 'Summer '96 No. 26'. 1996, Academy Art Museum, Easton
- 'Sandcastle', 1984, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor
- 'Australian Spring', 1972, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
- 'Morning Choice', 1968, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
- 'Prima', 1978, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis
- 'Sentinel', 1978, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
- 'Carolina Noon', Michael C. Rockefeller Arts Center, New York
- 'Catawba', 1962, Museum of Modern Art, New York
- 'Twining Court I', 2001, Museum of Modern Art, New York
- 'Untitled', 1962, Museum of Modern Art, New York
- 'Desert Reach', 1971, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
- 'Night Wing', 1972–78, Mint Museum, Charlotte
- 'Signal', 1978, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Richmond
- 'Summer Sentinel', 1963–72, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
From a 2002 interview with James Meyer comes the following exchange:
AT: Yes. First it was Ken, who told David Smith. David was the biggest, strongest supporter anybody could ever have.
JM: So they were the first two people to see your work?
AT: Yes; and then Clem. Clem said, "Now there will be three in Washington."
JM: You, Noland, and Morris Louis, presumably. In his essay on Minimalism, "Recentness of Sculpture" (1967), Greenberg talks about how difficult your work was for him initially, how he had to go back again until he finally "saw" it. Yet you've said he was impressed right away.
AT: Right away. There was no question about it.
JM: He was particularly impressed by Hardcastle.
AT: He backed away from it and said, "Scares the shit out of me." That's the only time I ever heard Clem swear. I remember being startled.
JM: That essay and the one he wrote about you the next year, "Changer: Anne Truitt," marked you as "Greenberg's Minimalist." He characterizes your work as a welcome antidote to that of Judd, Morris, and Andre. He praises the handmade quality of your sculpture and its intuitive color and attacks the industrial look of "orthodox" Minimalism. But you've also said that you later felt Greenberg was disappointed in you.
From Daybook, her first journal:
There is a sort of shame in naked pain. I used to see it in my patients when I was working in psychology and nursing. They found it more seemly, more expedient to pull over themselves thin coverlets of talk. There is wisdom in this, an unselfish honor in bearing one's burdens silently. But Rembrandt found a higher good worth the risk and painted himself as he knew himself, human beyond reprieve. He looks out from this position, without self-pity and without flourish, and lends me strength.
I sat for a long while in one of the rectangular courtyards, listening to the fountain. Feeling the artists all around me, I slowly took an unassuming place (for two of my own sculptures were somewhere in the museum) among the people whose lives, as all lives do, had been distilled into objects that outlasted them. Quilts, pin cushions, chairs, tables, houses, sculptures, paintings, tilled and retilled fields, gardens, poems—all of validity and integrity. Like earthworms, whose lives are spent making more earth, we human beings also spend ourselves into the physical. A few of us leave behind objects judged, at least temporarily, worthy of preservation by the culture into which we were born. The process is, however, the same for us all. Ordered into the physical, in time we leave the physical, and leave behind us what we have made in the physical.
- Schudel, Matt (2004-12-23). "Minimalist Sculptor Anne Truitt, 83, Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
- Ken Johnson (December 10, 2009), Where Ancient and Future Intersect New York Times.
- Biographical Sketch by Walter Hopps retrieved February 10, 2010
- Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection, October 8, 2009 - January 3, 2010 Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
- Oral history interview with Anne Truitt, 2002 Apr.-Aug Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
- Anne Truitt, 83; Sculptor Chronicled Life as Artist, Wife, Mother Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2004.
- Byrd, Anne (December 2009). "ANNE TRUITT: Perception and Reflection". The Brooklyn Rail.
- Anne Truitt: Works From The Estate, 10 October - 19 November 2011 Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
- Holland Cotter (March 9, 2001), ART IN REVIEW; Anne Truitt New York Times.
- Alix Kates Shulman (April 28, 1996), Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman Los Angeles Times.
- Anne Truitt, 83; Sculptor Chronicled Life as Artist, Wife, Mother Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2004.
- Anne Truitt: Drawings, February 4 - April 14, 2012 Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.
- "Saint Louis Art Museum: Collections – Modern Art". eMuseum.com.
- "Collection". kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.
- "Still". sheldonartgallery.org.
- Anne Truitt, Acknowledgements by Roy Slade & Walter Hopps, Copyright 1974 The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.: printed by Garamond/Pridemark Press, Baltimore, MD LCCC#75-78522
- Hopps, Walter. Anne Truitt, Retrospective: Sculpture and Drawings, 1961-1973. Washington, D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1974.
- Livingston, Jane. Anne Truitt: Sculpture 1961 – 1991. New York: André Emmerich Gallery, 1991.
- Meyer, James. Anne Truitt: Early Drawings and Sculpture, 1958-1963. Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2003.
- Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982) ISBN 0-14-006963-1
- Turn: The Journal of an Artist (1986)
- Prospect: The Journal of an Artist (1996)
- Anne Truitt at Stephen Friedman Gallery
- Anne Truitt at the Matthew Marks Gallery
- Anne Truitt website
- Artforum James Meyer interview
- Washington Post obituary
- Artnet images of Truitt's work