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The Tilton Gallery has been nurturing the work of a diverse range of international artists for over three decades. During its illustrious history, the gallery has worked with artists including David Hammons, Marlene Dumas and Huang Yong Ping. Recent exhibitions have celebrated critical West Coast figures John Outterbridge and Noah Purifoy, as well as the ever rising Brooklyn-based star Derrick Adams. Originally located in downtown New York, the gallery has been operating from a sumptuous two-floor space on the Upper East Side since 2005. Following Jack Tilton’s passing in 2017, the gallery has been led by his widow, Connie, who continues to present a captivating program that underlines a deep commitment to supporting artists. As part of its participation at Independent this year, of which Tilton Gallery is a long-standing patron, new work by Martha Tuttle will be shown.

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Martha Tuttle
Couplet on transcending limitations, 2019
Wool, linen, graphite, pigment, and quartz 61 1/2 x 46 inches
(156.2 x 116.8 cm)
Signed 'Martha Tuttle 2019' on the reverse (MT5145)
Courtesy: Tilton Gallery

Tilton Gallery has been running since 1983. Can you tell me how the gallery came into being? What was the ethos behind opening a space to show art?

Jack was director for Betty Parsons for the last seven years of her life. She died in July 1982. After a memorial year, he opened his own gallery in the same space on 57th Street. He followed in her footsteps, wanting to discover and show new artists.

Which artists were you working with right at the beginning? And what has guided the gallery when bringing new artists into its stable? 

From the start, the gallery was interested in showing international and diverse artists. The very first show was four artists: Ernst Caramelle (from Vienna), Tulio de Genaro (Italian)[1] , Joseph Nechvatal (American), and Alan Johnston (Scottish).

What propelled the move in 2005 from Soho, where the gallery had been based for some time, to the Upper East Side? Did this geographical shift have a big impact on how the gallery operated or how it was perceived?

By 2003, a lot of galleries had moved from Soho to Chelsea. We spent one and a half years looking for the right space. The Upper East Side was always very attractive to us, and it was more affordable than Chelsea. The area was also known for much more elegant and personal spaces. The neighborhood where our gallery is located has a long history: of galleries, of the old Parke-Bernet Galleries, and, of course, of all the museums. It was exciting to become part of this environment, and to be a gallery showing living and often younger artists in this milieu. It didn’t change our program or enthusiasm for showing art of the moment.

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"Of course, we want to honor and continue Jack’s legacy, but part of what he and the gallery have always been about is looking at the present, and looking to the future. So, although I feel it important to occasionally do historical shows—and I am very proud of our history—the gallery continues to look into the future."
— Connie Tilton 

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Martha Tuttle
Ode to Fallen Flowers, 2019
Wool, linen, graphite, pigment, and quartz 61 1/2 x 46 inches
(156.2 x 116.8 cm)
Signed 'Martha Tuttle 2019' on the reverse (MT5144)
Courtesy: Tilton Gallery

What made you interested to show at Independent and how long have you been involved with the fair?

This is our fourth time showing at the Independent. We love the fair! We love the atmosphere, we love the space, we love the people who run it, and we love the quality of the other galleries who show. It makes more sense, within New York, to have a solo booth in a small, vibrant fair like this, since we also have our gallery space here for people to visit and see more of what we do.

Has it been especially beneficial for certain artists to be shown at Independent? Are there any highlights over the past few years that come to mind, in terms of artists that you have shown, or specific works? 

I think that Independent has offered great exposure for all the artists we have shown, and all of them have really enjoyed participating. Our previous three booths showed Zachary Armstrong, Derrick Adams, and Tomashi Jackson. This year we are thrilled to show new work by Martha Tuttle.

Can you tell me about any future plans that the gallery has?

Following Jack's passing in 2017, it would seem that the matter of legacy is now weaved into the gallery's presence and program. While there is this wonderful history to think about, there is also a prosperous future to look forward to, as indicated by the gallery's participation in an event like Independent.

Of course, we want to honor and continue Jack’s legacy, but part of what he and the gallery have always been about is looking at the present—and looking to the future. So, although I feel it important to occasionally do historical shows—and I am very proud of our history—the gallery continues to look into the future. It is extremely important to continue to give the best support and guidance we can to our artists, as they grow and as their careers develop. We are committed to providing them with the freedom to continue to make great work.

 

Allie Biswas is a writer and editor based in London and New York. She is the co-editor of an anthology of critical texts relating to the Black Arts Movement, to be published later this year.