art history lesson - richard serra.

>> Saturday, April 23, 2011

richard serra, "torqued ellipses", 1998.  DIA foundation

i've always been more of a two-dimensional "artist".  i never really was able to think depth-width-length (which probably also explains why i am so awful at math) and all the things i made in Sculpture 101 were sadly only viewable from one angle.  i can definitely appreciate an excellent statue (the nike of samothrace, or bernini's ecstacy of st. theresa, for starters) but anything in three dimensions eludes me from a creative standpoint.  maybe it's a brain thing, maybe it's artistic roadblock, or maybe i should just resign myself to the fact that i'm just better working on a flat surface. 

i did not retain much from the extensive art history curriculum i have under my belt, but i did pay careful attention to modern sculpture movements.  one of my absolute favourite artists from that era is the minimalist/process artist Richard Serra.  not only does he create enormous, fantastic, uber-masculine constructions in steel, but he also has a reputation of being a little bit of a jerk.  (of course, just my type.)  urban legend had it that once, one of his multi-ton sculptures had crashed through a gallery ceiling and killed someone.  RS's alleged response?  "it's part of the art.  so what."  while the story is not 100% true - actually, the truth is that a workman was killed while assisting in the removal of a Serra piece from an installation site; and seriously, no good curator worth his/her salt would ever install something that heavy on the second floor of a gallery - it lends an edge of emotional coldness to RS's already steely works.

i've had the pleasure of experiencing one of Serra's works in person - the husband and i had lucked out and stumbled upon an exhibition of his "torqued ellipses" at the DIA foundation in NYC.  forbidding, huge, silent, pitted with the mark of the machinery that made it and streaked with rust, the huge pieces of cor-ten-steel rested firmly on the cement floor of a gigantic warehouse, but yet, as you looked up from within the sculpture, you couldn't help but feel that, at any minute, the huge pieces of steel would slowly tilt and crush you in the process.  i spent a long time just sitting underneath the steel, marvelling at the size, shape and structure, and hoping i wasn't going to be flattened.

i was thinking about what i said about the fidget rings last night and i realized that they are probably the only pieces of "sculpture" that i have made and truly been somewhat interested in.  i am in love with the irregularities, the folds in the metal, the textures.  the unfinished-ness of them and the twist of the copper.  they make me think of sitting within Serra's steel - but being able to hold that same feeling in my hand.  i am definitely NOT putting myself anywhere near the genius that is he, but it's neat to think that maybe, just maybe, i have a little bit of sculptor in me.

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