Today’s post comes from Deb Steinberg, class of 2014 and Art Center Docent.
Anne Truitt’s Sorcerer’s Summer (1991) is an abstract, modern sculpture that develops a visual intensity through its bold planes of color and precise rectilinear form. From across the gallery, the wooden sculpture appears very simple and solid, characterized by its crisp right angles and vertical, solid blocks of color. Each shade of enchanted red and purple seems to inhabit its own plane, where the colors are so deep and vibrant that they appear to be the material of which the sculpture is built, rather than the wood underneath.
But then you step closer, and the bold, stable colors take on a whole new life. They are no longer the solid blocks visible from across the room. Rather, you can see the actual brushstrokes of the paint; how the dark purple overlays a brilliant red and vice versa; how the strokes are not exactly vertical; and how the colors do not even stay in their own planes but enter into the crevice between the shades. It becomes clear that these are not unique shades of color, but that they exist on an infinite spectrum of reds and purples and deep blues; that there are more colors in a sorcerer’s summer than we could possibly imagine.
Up close you can see how the paint seeps into the wood, marrying the wood, so that the grains show through, reflecting the underlying structure of the artwork. Despite the many media to choose from at the end of the twentieth century, Truitt consistently made her sculptures out of wood, valuing the natural element and the textures it created. The layering of colors, brushstrokes, and texture of the material reflect Truitt’s artistic process, how she created a sorcerer’s summer out of a simple block of wood; how the application of the paint still reflects the true nature of the structure underneath.
The opposing natures of the sculpture from a distance and up close speak to the fact that Truitt did not consider herself a minimalist, despite the label being placed on her by critics. Unlike the stripped-down minimalist art, Truitt strove to make her work totally referential, filled with meaning and emotional associations. Truitt used simple forms to get the most possible meaning out of her art. So next time you get to the museum, take a look at Sorcerer’s Summer both at a distance and up close and explore what meaning the bold colors and wooden structure invoke for you.