If Denver-based mixed-media artist Kay Tuttle sends out the first salvo of the new year for House Gallery, it’s a musket ball, or maybe an antique cannonball; the past weighs that heavily on her artwork. This is a decidedly different exhibition for House Gallery, a site where abstractionists can make their mark. As an artist formerly represented by IAO Projects Gallery, it’s clear that Tuttle’s challenging, highly conceptual work is connected to other House artists who crossed over when IAO closed last year.
In the “Victorian Drawings” series, she paints over Victorian-era magazine plates, using their relative refinement and simplicity as a backdrop to create disorienting visual fugues reminiscent of Lewis Carroll (“The Harvest” is pictured). “Encyclopedia Paintings,” weaves more sophisticated subject matter into a narrative about animals seeking autonomy. The most fascinating thing about these works is Tuttle’s commentary about the human drive to accumulate knowledge and organize it logically. At the same time, her collage-influenced methods undercut any linear taxonomy, as the past and present bleed into each other. The stories these art objects convey are as telling in what they keep tacit as in their revelations.
Her works bear such a patina of innocence that you might not realize their iconic power. By using artifacts of book artists past, Tuttle both has covered herself and has used the covers as a springboard for her own imaginative flights.
Kay Tuttle: Cover Stories @ House Gallery, 29 E. 400 South, 801-910-1736, through Jan. 29, Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. & Friday-Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Reception Jan. 21, 6-9 p.m., free. HouseGallerySLC.com