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Frederic Tuten: Works on Cardboard

June 26 – July 21, 2021
 

 

Harper's East Hampton
87 Newtown Lane
East Hampton, NY 11937

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Frederic Tuten: Works on Cardboard

"We never leave our childhood, or it never leaves us. We refine it, we play with it, we can do all these things to hide it or rediscover it, disguise it. But I think it’s always there with us.”

— Frederic Tuten

On meeting Frederic to plan his first solo exhibition at our East Hampton gallery, Works on Cardboard, it was impossible to avoid thinking about the passage of time. From the moment he walked through the gallery door, it was clear that the octogenarian was far more fashionable than I: Frederic had a beautiful scarf draped around his neck and wielded a bright green Lucite cane. Our conversation took many interesting paths and extended digressions. We discussed his love for drawing, his decades-long relationship with Roy Lichtenstein, the Kardashian phenomenon, and mostly how visual art evolved from his day to my own. Perhaps counterintuitively, Frederic made it seem entirely sensible to strive for old age, even though we live in a culture that values being “forever young.” For him, keeping a childlike sense of wonder is a sign of maturity, not stunted growth. Refining and rediscovering our childhood is precisely what drives Frederic’s approach to making art, and the selection in Works on Cardboard visualizes this pursuit in surprising ways.

The first thing I noticed when viewing Frederic’s work was the whimsical nature of his images. Unlike things are paired together and enlivened in surreal landscapes, buoyantly dancing within the composition. Teacups, vases, jugs, and potted plants rest on tabletops, while sombreros, clocks, boats, and disembodied faces freely drift across the picture plane. Mountains ascend out of the horizon and peppered throughout the vistas are miniature houses and towering candle-shaped structures, altering any sense of scale or perspective. All of these works are executed on unprimed cardboard, rendered in ink, colored pencil, crayon, pastel, and in his latest three works, oil paint. The pigment is partially absorbed into the tan surface of the cardboard, muting the chroma to enhance the hazy, dreamlike quality of his scenes. His works are invested in the sheer pleasure of putting a utensil to a surface, letting go, and discovering what happens in the process. This speaks to how art for Frederic encapsulates a childlike sense of freedom.

What is remarkable about Frederic is that he returned to making art at sixty years old. This late blooming stems from a traumatic experience in his teens, which dissuaded him from pursuing a career as a painter. Growing up in the Bronx and dropping out of high school at the age of fifteen, he began taking life drawing classes at the Art Students League. Much to his dismay, the teacher mocked his sketches in front of the other students, causing him to abandon his dream of becoming an artist. Yet Frederic did not flee from the art world. He moved on to become a successful fiction writer, publishing a number of critically acclaimed books and a screenplay for the cult film Possession. Since the 1960s, he has reviewed exhibitions and written thoughtful pieces on Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, John Baldessari, David Salle, Ross Bleckner, and Eric Fischl, among others. Frederic became close with these artists as well as April Gornik, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein, the latter becoming a lifelong friend. It was Lichtenstein’s encouragement that inspired him to take the leap back into drawing and painting. From that moment onward, Frederic has been committed to being a visual artist.

Something from within urges him to make up for lost time, it seems. I learned from Frederic that the youthful process of reinventing oneself only deepens with age, and that art gives form to this ever-morphing path. Works on Cardboard offers an excellent opportunity to ruminate on the recursive nature of growing up. We invite viewers to find themselves in this experience as well.

— Chris Mansour, East Hampton

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Frederic Tuten
Faceoff in the Desert
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
14 x 14 in
Framed: 17 x 17 in

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Frederic Tuten
The Flight of the Fledgling Sombreros
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

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Frederic Tuten
On the Road to Plato’s Cave
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
14 x 14 in
​Framed: 17 x 17 in

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Frederic Tuten
Sombrero in the Mountains
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

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Frederic Tuten
In the Far Country
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
12 x 16 in
Framed: 15 x 19 in

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Frederic Tuten
Sombrero on Holiday
2019-2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
10 x 8 in
Framed: 12.75 x 10.75 in

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Frederic Tuten
Sunday Morning for the Sombrero Family
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

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Frederic Tuten
Fat Cup with Sombrero
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 12.75 x 10.75 in

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Frederic Tuten
Papa Sombrero Returns Home after Traveling in Strange Lands
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

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Frederic Tuten
The Sea, the Sea
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

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Frederic Tuten
On a Terrace in Tuscany
2020
Pastel pencil, crayon, and permanent ink on cardboard
8.5 x 11 in
Framed: 11.25 x 13.75 in

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Frederic Tuten
Above the World so High
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

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Frederic Tuten
Brave Boats Against the Tide
2021
Pastel pencil and permanent ink
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

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Frederic Tuten
Tony and Cleo
2020
Pastel pencil, crayon, and permanent ink on cardboard
14 x 14 in
Framed: 17 x 17 in

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Frederic Tuten
In Time’s Garden
2021
Oil on treated board
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

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Frederic Tuten
Encounter in the Mountains
2021
Oil on treated board
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

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Frederic Tuten
Sombreros Among the Pylons
2021
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
24 x 18 in
Framed: 26.75 x 21 in

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Frederic Tuten
I Dreamed of a Red House
2021
Oil on treated board
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

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Frederic Tuten
Untitled
2019
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.50 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

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Frederic Tuten
Faceoff in the Desert
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
14 x 14 in
Framed: 17 x 17 in

Frederic Tuten
The Flight of the Fledgling Sombreros
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

Frederic Tuten
On the Road to Plato’s Cave
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
14 x 14 in
​Framed: 17 x 17 in

Frederic Tuten
Sombrero in the Mountains
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

Frederic Tuten
In the Far Country
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
12 x 16 in
Framed: 15 x 19 in

Frederic Tuten
Sombrero on Holiday
2019-2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
10 x 8 in
Framed: 12.75 x 10.75 in

Frederic Tuten
Sunday Morning for the Sombrero Family
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

Frederic Tuten
Fat Cup with Sombrero
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 12.75 x 10.75 in

Frederic Tuten
Papa Sombrero Returns Home after Traveling in Strange Lands
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

Frederic Tuten
The Sea, the Sea
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

Frederic Tuten
On a Terrace in Tuscany
2020
Pastel pencil, crayon, and permanent ink on cardboard
8.5 x 11 in
Framed: 11.25 x 13.75 in

Frederic Tuten
Above the World so High
2020
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.5 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

Frederic Tuten
Brave Boats Against the Tide
2021
Pastel pencil and permanent ink
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

Frederic Tuten
Tony and Cleo
2020
Pastel pencil, crayon, and permanent ink on cardboard
14 x 14 in
Framed: 17 x 17 in

Frederic Tuten
In Time’s Garden
2021
Oil on treated board
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

Frederic Tuten
Encounter in the Mountains
2021
Oil on treated board
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

Frederic Tuten
Sombreros Among the Pylons
2021
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
24 x 18 in
Framed: 26.75 x 21 in

Frederic Tuten
I Dreamed of a Red House
2021
Oil on treated board
16 x 12 in
Framed: 19 x 15 in

Frederic Tuten
Untitled
2019
Pastel pencil and permanent ink on cardboard
11 x 8.50 in
Framed: 13.75 x 11.25 in

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Press - Artforum


CRITICS' PICKS: Frederic Tuten
Artforum


"Not thinking about anything except the sheer pleasure of making the work, Tuten forges wondrous paths that lead his unusual protagonists into fanciful realms populated by commedia dell’arte–style figures with elongated noses, puffy clouds, and azure mountains and seas, among other things. The more familiar vases of flowers and pieces of furniture make appearances too, but with totally distorted perspectives and wonky proportions. Tuten is not looking for a precision of form and space—he holds his pencil loose, letting his hand do what it wants. The pictures are enlivened by his playfully dancing lines, giving his imagery a childlike sense of wonder and freedom."


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Press - Art Newspaper

 


EXHIBITION PREVIEW
The Art Newspaper
 

"Frederic Tuten has been a highly recognized figure in the art world for decades. Known as an award-winning author and art critic, his essays have included catalog pieces for John Baldessari, Ross Bleckner, and David Salle, among others. His fiction puts to use his in-depth knowledge of art history, often merging his characters with the psyches of painters like Poussin and Van Gogh."

 


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Frederic Tuten (b. 1936, Bronx, NY) is a celebrated novelist, essayist, and visual artist. He studied at the Art Students League, City College of New York, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico prior to receiving a Ph.D. in 19th century American literature from New York University. Over the course of Tuten’s long career, he has published five novels, including The Adventures of Mao on the Long March (1971), and Tintin in the New World: A Romance (1993), both of which feature original cover art designed by Roy Lichtenstein; and most recently a memoir, My Young Life (2019). His short-form writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Artforum, New York Times, and Vogue. Tuten’s artwork has been the subject of two solo exhibitions: Works on Cardboard, Harper’s, East Hampton, NY (2021); and Flowers, Plants, and Other Romances, Planthouse, New York, NY (2019). He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Award for Distinguished Writing from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A book of Tuten’s works on cardboard will be published in Spring 2022 by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, and is edited by Karen Marta with an interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Tuten currently lives and works in New York City and Southampton, NY.