Richard Serra, The Gagosian

Richard Serra is one of the giants of contemporary art, and regularly shows new work at The Gagosian. This latest is more fragmented than the last show I saw: a sculpture tall and curved as the bulk of a ship–one of those lonely rusted ships Edward Burtynsky photographs. I still don’t know how they got that thing in the gallery!
The current show, Rolled and Forged, continues Serra’s fascination with weight, with density and surface:

“Weight is a value for me, not that it is any more compelling than lightness, but I simply know more about weight than lightness and therefore I have more to say about it, more to say about the balancing of weight, the diminishing of weight, the addition and subtraction of weight, the concentration of weight, the rigging of weight, the propping of weight, the placement of weight, the locking of weight, the psychological effects of weight, the disorientation of weight, the disequilibrium of weight, the rotation of weight, the movement of weight, the directionality of weight, the shape of weight. I have more to say about the perpetual and meticulous adjustments of weight, more to say about the pleasure derived from the exactitude of the laws of gravity. I have more to say about the processing of the weight of steel, more to say about the forge, the rolling mill, and the open hearth.” (Richard Serra, 1988)

This last show I saw on a Friday afternoon, which is worth mentioning because it made all the difference. On Saturdays, the day I usually reserve for Chelsea, the galleries are packed, people spilling, sometimes dazed, out onto the street. Whatever art I might be looking at is therefore shaped in some way by this frenetic energy that I’m viewing it in. This last Friday, however, we were virtually alone in The Gagosian. Alone enough to get a sense not only of the “density,” but the surprising warmth, and energy of Serra’s pieces. Serra is nothing if not monumental, and I’m never sure how to take his work really, other than with wonder. And respect. Respect for the ability to manufacture something so solid, and precise.

Intentional remnants, or pedestals for air, the long steel structures are supposed to “alter and reshape one’s perception of space.” In “Elevations Repetitions” we engaged with the structure as if it were a maze, so one might say that our perceptions were altered. We were certainly aware that something solid was inhibiting and directing movement, as much as we were aware, looking more closely at the structures (again, see above), that an awful lot of effort had gone in to making them seem so blissfully content with themselves in the air and time. Not the same as finding a massive hulk of steel in a field, for instance, the sadness that rust can bring.

But this is not rust. Not simply rust.

And this last sculpture (sorry about the bad photo), shows perhaps the squat, buddah-like quality of the “shape” that can be found in the medium.

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