Anne Truitt (1921-2004) made waves in the art world with her first solo exhibition at André Emmerich Gallery in New York in 1963. Her work was composed of arrangements of bulky columns, boxes, and slab forms in somber colors. Artist and critic Donald Judd, writing for Arts Magazine in April of that year, described her arrangements as “thoughtless” and her work as appearing “serious without being so,” a far more dismissive comment than the praise Clement Greenberg, writing some years later about the same exhibition, heaped on Truitt. Greenberg, an influential art critic, a promoter of Abstract Expressionism, and a friend of Truitt’s, credited her with anticipating, with her boxy monoliths, the Minimalist movement that would reach its zenith before the 1960s came to a close. In his 1967 essay “Recentness of Sculpture,” Greenberg wrote about her early works, saying, “Despite their being covered with rectilinear zones of color, I was stopped by their deadpan ‘primariness,’ and I had to look again and again, and I had to return again, to discover the power of these ‘boxes.’ ” Judd remained unconvinced, writing in April 1969 that Greenberg’s attempt to credit Truitt with Minimalism’s invention was garbled and further suggesting that it wasn’t even worth inventing.
Truitt had not embraced the Minimalist aesthetic to the extent that her contemporaries did, choosing to paint her works by hand and, later in her career, turning to more polychromatic sculpture. Minimalist works, for the most part, are created in series, industrially produced, and geometric. They are simplified in form, and color, when used, is done so sparingly. The works are also nonreferential, hinting at nothing beyond their own appearance. In his authoritative compendium Minimalism, James Meyer writes that Truitt had an intuitive approach to making art and that her works often dealt with personal memory, aspects that seem to be at odds with the basic markers of Minimalism and may have more in common with the emotional intensity of Abstract Expressionism.
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