Magazine article Art Monthly

Richard Serra: Sculpture Forty Years: MoMA New York June 3 to September 10

Magazine article Art Monthly

Richard Serra: Sculpture Forty Years: MoMA New York June 3 to September 10

Article excerpt

Richard Sera: Sculpture Forty Years MoMA New York June 3 to September 10

Standing in MoMA's sculpture garden, and stepping over the toddlers, sun worshippers, picture-takers and coffee-sippers, it occurred to me that I had never seen any of Richard Serra's Torqued Spirals, Toruses, Spheres and Ellipses in any situation where I thought they had enough space. Dia's old Chelsea quarters looked like a holding pen for the Torqued Ellipses when they were first shown in 1997; Dia's new pile at Beacon shoves them into little more than a corridor and here, at MoMA, where Serra's retrospective is curated by Kynaston McShine and Lynne Cooke, Intersection II, 1992-93, and Torqued Ellipse IV, 1998, look similarly corralled. Upstairs, in the contemporary galleries, three more are on view, all of them made last year--Band, Torqued Torus Inversion and Sequence--but once again they crave air and one can never give them enough distance. And this seems vital in the case of the latter two, as they offer up intriguingly different and apparently contradictory perspectives: from some angles, parts present themselves as discrete structures, while from other angles the surface looks continuous and enveloping, and surfaces which one moment form an outside disappear a moment later to form an interior.

But perhaps it is not simply size which is the problem. Serra's work may also have burst the britches of the conventional critical frameworks in which it can be appraised. Partially, it is a problem of the embarrassment of riches: how, in the space of a review, can one address all the ideas in even those large-scale works alone? They are not only in dialogue with Constructivism and Minimalism, but they reprise the masculine rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism--for instance, works like Intersection II present long blistered surfaces of orange rust which evoke the textures of Sam Francis and Pollock. At the same time they renew art's dialogue with architecture in that they continue the tradition of the large-scale projects once produced by Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer and Gordon Matta-Clark and they evoke Baroque architecture, via Borromini's San Carlo in Rome, where Serra first found his inspiration for these works. Finally, at least as Serra tells it, their twisting and torquing represent a feat of architectural ideation which has never been tried before.

This is, obviously, too much to chew over here and that is to Serra's credit. But it is also true that, given the scale of these sculptures, it is difficult to present enough of them in such a way that one might be able to critique them adequately, and that seems unfortunate when this would seem to be the primary purpose of a retrospective. It would certainly seem important to include some mention of Tilted Arc, 1981, the sculpture which, by the time it was removed from downtown Manhattan in 1989, had become a cause celebre symptomatic of opposition to Modernism. Perhaps this could have been done with the aid of models and drawings, or perhaps that would not have been ideal; either way, MoMA has eschewed any full presentation and it feels inadequate. …

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