Contemporaneous Extension


One-Hitter — Richard Serra
Richard Serra, 'Forged Drawing,' 1978/2004. Steel, paintstick. Dimensions variable.

Richard Serra, 'Forged Drawing,' 1978/2008. Steel, paintstick. Dimensions variable.

“How do you redefine a mark on ground — you need to refurbish the problem.” -Richard Serra, interviewed by Charlie Rose, April 21, 2011.

Richard Serra’s retrospective currently on view at the MoMA stresses the importance of his drawings and their impact on his visual understanding of the world. His most pertinent drawings came from the 1970’s before metal sculpture was a prime focus. There are a multitude of large, flat, Belgian linen shapes stapled to the wall. They are masked in the oily luster of paintstick or charcoal. Varying between oversized triangles and circles or more dramatically engulfing rectangles, these works alter the viewer’s perception of the room. The black voids feverishly absorb light and mutate the room’s sensuous dimensions. Serra’s earliest drawings are inspired by Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, concurrently stunners and magicians. They seamlessly transformed architecture by making it a component of their painted compositions.

‘Forged Drawing’ (1978/2008) comes at the tail-end of Serra’s architectural modifications. A circle, rounded square, octagon and rectangle were forged out of steel and situated in a straight, horizontal line on the wall. Projecting approximately four inches from the wall, each component casts a tectonic gray shadow onto the wall below. This piece is the first in the show to pierce the third-dimension. Paintstick graces the frontal faces, transforming them into deceptive cavities.  It is impossible to look at all four shapes with simultaneous focus. Three of the four acknowledge their volume while the fourth shape, viewed straight on, assumes an abysmal bulk. This piece is two-faced: it provokes an ambiguity, an emptiness, that encourages the viewer to look beyond the wall while it remains attached to gravity and the robust white light above each component.

An amber rust consumes the exterior, unpainted perimeter of each object. Serra draws the viewer into the bottomless pit of space. The projection into space challenges the axial orientation of the world and provokes the viewer to dive into the dubious emptiness. This piece retains a symbiotic relationship with the wall. He channels the orgasmically expansive nature of black holes or whirlpools with hypnotizing brushstrokes. ‘Forged Drawing’ is similarly quantifiable yet mysteriously phenomenal. By propelling each component into the world and approaching it as a singular viewing experience, Serra exposes the unrelenting flux of space. These works tether the viewer to the room and enforce an incessant reassessment of three-dimensionality.

(all photos courtesy of MinimalExposition)

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