The Hirshhorn Museum continues
(to 1/3) with a first-rate retrospective of the late Washingtonian wood sculptor Anne Truitt (1921-2004) entitled Perception and Reflection. Tastefully curated by Kristen Hileman, the exhibit contains about 50 sculptures
and 35 drawings and paintings. Ms. Truitt was on the cusp of the mostly Washingtonian Color Field and Minimalist art
movements and pretty much stayed within them for her productive, five-decade career. Starting in 1961 - at the age of 40 for
all you late bloomers - Ms. Truitt investigated the emotional response, in herself and her viewers, of color and substance
in arresting primarily 3-D objects.
The show has a quiet and contemplative feel about it. Think of Rothko's
mood rooms at the Phillips or Maya Lin's striking Vietnam Memorial to get a sense of the intensity and grandeur conveyed.
The simple elegance of form for form's sake permeates the monoliths, columns, and steles - almost primitive or primal
in their power - while the exquisite colors and their arrangements breaths life into the compositions. This is particularly
the case with Dryads where color is accentuated at the base and top; in others, where the lines of paint are off-centered
- called "counterpointing" - seem to animate and set the works apart.
The drawings and
paintings, ranging from sketches for larger works to expressions yearning for another medium, have a conceptual feel about
them. One senses that Ms. Truitt would be fully at home in today's art market. The 1964-67 works documenting
her period abroad in Tokyo are all we have left of these gap years; she destroyed almost all of her aluminum sculpture of
that time (What a loss!) which did not meet her core values as an artist. Many of these 2-D works were supplied courtesy
of Matthew Marks Gallery and the artist's estate.
Ms. Truitt's Parvas are appealingly arranged under one large
display case at about midpoint in the tour. These smaller-scale columns explore a variety of vertical themes and color
arrangements in their own right, as the curator explains, and were not intended as maquettes or models for larger works.
They might be an entrée for a discerning collector of a certain means.
Before you leave the exhibit, check
out the documentary clip of the artist in action filmed while in residence at Yaddo in 1999. This short piece touchingly
captures the artist's relationship with the "tools of her trade," jars of different colors, and shows her planning
the pieces. If you want to know how an artist thinks, especially a color field artist, you will find the video of interest.
A very original artist and show; don't miss it!
© John F. Glass December 16, 2009 All rights reserved
Photo credit: Lee Stalsworth