The Big Woozy

Richard Serra at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea through November 29, where two massive works are on exhibition: Junction, 2011, and Cycle, 2010

On the heels of a spectacular retrospective drawing show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past spring/summer (shown left, photo by Ozier Muhammed for the New York Times), comes this equally spectacular sculpture show at Gagosian Gallery, up through the end of the month. Size is the issue—as in big, as in huge, as in gargantuan—both in the oilstick-on-paper drawings assembled at the Met, and in the vertiginous double-walled maze in nearly three-inch-thick rolled steel at Gagosian.

Space is also the issue, of course. “I consider space to be a material,” says the artist, who manipulates his physical material so that you make your way vertiginously through torqued and tilted walls, unsure whether the floor is giving way under you, the walls are closing in, or you’re somehow unable to maintain your previous relationship to gravity.

Aerial view of Junction from the gallery website. This image was on a $20 poster that sold out in a flash

Installation views from the gallery website, above and below

As a decidedly non-spatial person, I couldn’t fathom the shape of what I was seeing at ground level, even with a poster showing an aerial view of Junction and installation shots from the gallery's website (three b/w images above). Where did Junction end and Cycle begin? I don't know. So I just followed my nose through the maze and made my way around the works. Here's some of what I saw:

Above: View from the gallery entrance
Below: view from the other side of the gallery

A panoramic shot

To my painter’s eye, the color is as compelling as the forms. You have a new appreciation of the color “rust” after seeing the oxidized surfaces of the works, with their warm, almost velvety surfaces. (Want to read more about Serra's surfaces? Type in "Richard Serra at MoMa" in the internal Google search bar, right, and links to few previous posts of mine will appear at the top of this post.)

I felt a little drunk walking through some of these passages. I had the same feeling climbing the steps inside the Tower of Pisa years ago, when you could still enter the structure. When your relationship to perpendicularity changes, wooze ensues.

The work is so massive that you don't think about the thickness of the steel until you see a visible edge. That's my hand below to give you a sense of the thickness of the rolled plates, about three inches

Another unexpected quality to the work is the "pattern" in the rust, which must be a result of the forging and rolling process. To my eye there are waterfalls and wood grains. My favorite, below, is almost art nouveau in its pattern


Susan Roux said...

So amazing to find your post. I was in NY about a decade ago and he had a similar exhibit there. I was amazed to experience it. Photos can't possibly convey the feeling of that enormous steel curving over your head. I wondered how it all stood up?

Cool surprise to find it again. Thanks for bringing back a memory.

Tamar said...

Joanne- Your comments hit the mark in so many of the ways I experience Serra's work. Long before I began to understand my connections to abstraction, I was mesmerized by the feelings that took hold when I encountered Serra's pieces. The sense of dislocation, the majesty of the scale, and the exquisite rusted surfaces were (and remain) awe inspiring. You bring it all together with this post. Thank you.

lisa said...

Thank you for capturing the feel and look of this show. Loved it!

Anonymous said...

great post thank you! This work is so ambitious and stimulating.

Patricia Oblack said...

We have "Joe" Richard Sera @ the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, here in St.Louis. The color & texture are amazing. The public is not allowed to touch it, for fear the patina will be marked.

Karen Jacobs said...

Experienced the feelings you describe at the Dia when I happened to be alone and closing time was near... so I hurried through the three installations and had that 'rabbit hole' feeling, not sure which way was out but not wanting to leave. Your pics are wonderful!

Graceann Warn said...

Thank you so much for photographing so much of this exhibit. Wonderful!

Cora said...

Thanks for extending my visit to the Serra exhibit. Being there was akin to travel, places like the Grand Canyon, maybe outer space. All in a room in Manhattan!

britto said...

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Meanwhile i am come a cross to your site and found it according to my need and demand...

Romero Britto

* said...

Great title. (good post, too.)