Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
June 3-September 10
Curated by Lynne Cooke and Kynaston McShine
This year, the public will likely be more receptive to Richard Serra's work than it was two decades ago during his first Museum of Modern Art retrospective, "Richard Serra: Sculpture," curated by Rosalind Krauss and Laura Rosenstock in 1986. The artist was then known best for the legal struggles surrounding his Tilted Arc--a 1981 steel structure that sliced radically through Manhattan's Federal Plaza--and after the piece was dismantled in 1989, Serra chose to focus on commissions overseas, where the climate seemed readier for his often disruptive, always attentive site-specific sculptural interventions. But over the past decade, critical and institutional resistance at home has morphed into reverence, a revelatory reengagement catalyzed by such key exhibitions as the 1997 gathering of his Torqued Ellipses at the Dia Center for the Arts. So ready is New York now for Serra that MOMA'S second-floor galleries were conceived, during the museum's redesign, with the artist's current monumental, multiton works in mind--three of which were created specially for this exhibition.
Given the aggressive grittiness of Serra's earlier sculptures, it's a point of wonderment that his recent production evinces a warmth of play, on the part of both artist and audience. And it's a point of significance that such play has, in fact, never been entirely absent from the artist's approach. For all their edge, Serra's first pieces were precisely the yield of a playful curiosity about the effects of single or repeated actions (rolling, cutting, melting) brought to bear
on brute material--and soon this play became serious practice. A making-oriented preoccupation with "the matter of matter," as the artist often puts it, thus developed over the course of four decades into an experience-oriented preoccupation with the durational and destabilizing effects of form, or, as his 2005 group of eight sculptures at the Guggenheim Bilbao would have it, "The Matter of Time." Of late, Serra constructs grandly scaled ellipses, spirals, and tori from torqued steel plates, which prompt entry and exploration yet dumbfound any attempt to anticipate or to recount the progression of our bodies in relation to surfaces that shift topographically by the millimeter, seeming to move even as we do.
These terrifically popular, terrifically beautiful torqued forms (the three newly commissioned works among them) will appear at MOMA alongside well-known but rarely seen process sculptures in rubber and lead from the 1960s and two stark, commanding pieces in steel from the '70s. By pairing early and recent works, the show will no doubt bring forth the very alignments that consistently inform Serra's art: looking (and walking) with thinking; expectant approach with unmappable encounter; and persistent material play with the gravity of effective affective experience. Intended as a definitive reference, the catalogue features essays by Cooke and art historians Benjamin H. D. Buchloh and John Rajchman. And because language is no less material for Serra than steel, it is fitting to note that the publication closes with an extensive interview conducted by McShine, allowing the artist's words their due weight.
The Shapes of Space
SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
April 14-September 5
Curated by Kevin Lotery, Ted Mann, Nancy Spector, and Nat Trotman
Frank Lloyd Wright's spiral structure has long embodied the polemics of museological space. Quintessentially linear narrative of modernism, or field of radical visual connections across ramp and rotunda? "The Shapes of Space" promises to amplify these issues as the show is progressively unveiled in four stages, from ground floor to top level. …