To Roll, To Crease, To Fold...
November 27, 2008 5:46 AM   Subscribe

Richard Serra: Man of Steel.

...to store, to bend, to shorten, to twist, to dapple, to crumple, to shave, to tear, to chip, to split, to cut, to sever, to drop, to remove, to simplify, to differ, to disarrange, to open, to mix, to splash, to knot, to spill, to droop, to flow, to curve, to lift, to inlay, to impress, to fire, to flood, to smear, to rotate, to swirl, to support, to hook, to suspend, to spread, to hang, to collect, of tension, of gravity, of entropy, of nature, of grouping, of layering, of felting, to grasp, to tighten, to bundle, to heap, to gather, to scatter, to arrange, to repair, to discard, to pair, to distribute, to surfeit, to compliment, to enclose, to surround, to encircle, to hole, to cover, to wrap, to dig, to tie, to bind, to weave, to join, to match, to laminate, to bond, to hinge, to mark, to expand, to dilute, to light, to modulate, to distil, of waves, of electromagnetic, of inertia, of ionization, of polarization, of refraction, of tides, of reflection, of equilibrium, of symmetry, of friction, to stretch, to bounce, to erase, to spray, to systematize, to refer, to force, of mapping, of location, of context, of time, of carbonization, to continue
posted by chuckdarwin (43 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
108 links! Are you trying to break a record? No doubt that Serra is worth it, but even if I spent only 2mn on each, it would take more than 3 hours!
I would have appreciated if you could have highlighted the 2 or 3 more original ones.
posted by bru at 6:09 AM on November 27, 2008


Here you go.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:23 AM on November 27, 2008


If only one of these things had dropped on him. Richard Serra has littered the world with huge hunks of ugly useless steel. What's going to happen to them all when he and us are gone, and future generations have to get rid of these giant pieces of crap? The man who inflicted "Tilted Arc" on lower Manhattan is a modern day Albert Speer.
posted by Faze at 6:35 AM on November 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oscar Wilde once said that all art is essentially useless. Do you think that the Venus de Milo is somehow less useless than Torqued Torus Inversion and Sequence?
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:39 AM on November 27, 2008


Serious question Faze, have you ever actually seen any of the monumental work? I mean I can see making a comment like that about some of the early work, like the plates and the lead rolls, which require some thought and context to understand, but the monumental work, particularly when explored from the inside, imparts a sense of visceral awe that I can't believe anyone could consider valueless. Even if you find the work "ugly" (a revealing critique) there is no question that it is incredibly powerful, and surely there's a place for that. We took my three-year old to the MoMA show and watching him walk through the torqued ellipses and discover their incredibly bizarre geometries from the inside gave me a new respect for the work I've known intimately for twenty years.
posted by The Bellman at 6:49 AM on November 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


if I spent only 2mn on each, it would take more than 3 hours!

Well you can spend two seconds on each instead, or ignore most of them. I just clicked on http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/visualarts/tiltedarc_a.html">this one at random, and it leaves me with a puzzle that I for one am not smart enough to work out in two minutes:

Those against the sculpture, for the most part people who work at Federal Plaza, say that the sculpture interferes with public use of the plaza. They also accuse it of attracting graffiti, rats, and terrorists who might use it as a blasting wall for bombs.

Okay, graffiti. Terrorists, I can sort of follow the thinking even if it seems ridiculous. But how are these people thinking that a big pointless wall of steel is going to attract rats? It might inconvenience the rats, they ought to be able to walk around it just like people do, and get to where they were going. Is it a particular color that rats are attracted to? Do they think garbage blowing around will collect against the wall making it a giant rat feeding trough? I wonder. Even google does not help much, with the first hits just turning up the fact that some people think it attracts rats, some don't.
posted by sfenders at 6:54 AM on November 27, 2008


The theory was, I think, that trash would blow up against the sculpture (which blocked the wind blowing across the plaza) and collect there, attracting rats. I hadn't heard the terrorist thing -- we didn't really worry about terrorists back then. The rat-fearers won, as I'm sure you know. That work no longer exists.
posted by The Bellman at 7:08 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Richard Serra's daughter, Monica Serra. She was a major model for Tom Wesselmann.
posted by nickyskye at 7:31 AM on November 27, 2008


sfenders, some people hated the piece with the heat of a million suns. They would have said it was covered in live plague molecules if they thought it would help their case. I think having a judge on the anti-Serra squad helped them more than imaginary rats, in the end.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:54 AM on November 27, 2008


Bellman, I worked in lower Manhattan during the "Tilted Arc" years, and have seen other Serras over the course of a life whose life has included hundreds of hours of museum and gallery visiting, and I have heard the deep bass note of the imponderable rumbling among Serra's steel curtains, and recognized my gnarled, humble humanity beneath Serra's sheer cliffs. But considered as a cost/value proposition, Serra's effects are gained in a crude, wasteful and inartistic fashion. If you were a sculptor given the task of creating "a visceral sense of awe" in a viewer, the first thing you would think of would be overwhelm the viewer with some kind of huge massy object -- it's a pretty obvious solution. It's kind of knuckleheaded to actually execute it. Especially since you can get the same effect by going down to 47th Street and standing alongside the Intrepid. Of course, Serra's work is in the great American tradition of blunt, obvious gestures in art, like the unimaginative, awe-intending volcanoes, Niagaras, or El Capitans of 19th Century monumentalists like Church or Bierstadt. The difference between the late Hudson River School and Serra is that Church and Bierstadt executed their monumental works with consumate craftsmanship, servility to nature, and a certain jolly show-business flair. (Plus, their works, should some later generation decide to hate them, can be easily disposed of with a match and a a dab of accelerant.) Serra's monuments are as permanent as any human creation short of the pyramids. They are joyless, totalitarian and bossy. They are the George Bush of art: simple, seamless and possessed of but one big, dumb, immovable idea at a time.
posted by Faze at 7:57 AM on November 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Serra's monuments are as permanent as any human creation short of the pyramids. They are joyless, totalitarian and bossy. They are the George Bush of art: simple, seamless and possessed of but one big, dumb, immovable idea at a time.

I couldn't disagree with you more Faze. Especially considering Serra's more recent work. But I am also not going to try to change your mind about it.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:07 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


You seem to be hung up on destroying art. Since when do we do that? The last time I can think of a major art work being destroyed, it was the Taliban or some bastards looting the museums in Baghdad.

Why should we want to destroy anything? Love art or hate it, but I thought we've gotten past tearing work down just because a few philistines who don't understand non-representational art think it's "ugly".
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:12 AM on November 27, 2008


Metafilter: they are joyless, totalitarian and bossy.
posted by ShameSpiral at 8:13 AM on November 27, 2008


Well, sure he can crumple, shave and tear, but can he spindle, fold or mutilate?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:18 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


... but not to scratch.

There was problem last year with the public interacting just a bit too much with Serra's Tilted Spheres, installed in the new terminal of Toronto's airport. I get a bit amused when people are encouraged to engage directly with public art, but then there's shock or disappointment when they engage it in the wrong way (admittedly there is always a grey area between interaction and vandalism). Perhaps we should consider Serra's own words (quoted in the Guardian article): "Art is not democratic. It is not for the people.'

Not sure how the sculpture is looking now.
posted by Kabanos at 8:28 AM on November 27, 2008


I had a long post here, but on preview, I'll just second R. Mutt. Faze, you and I have such fundamentally different views of art and, I would guess, the world that we're not even speaking the same language, so I'm certainly not going to be able to change your mind. So, with respect, I disagree.
posted by The Bellman at 8:38 AM on November 27, 2008


His Cor-Ten sculpture, entitled "wake" is on display here in Seattle at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Personally, my reaction is "meh". At least there are no bad welds on display, like another piece at the sculpture park.

My favorite Cor-Ten sculptures are representational, and reside here in Washington. From a distance, they really look like wild horses. Up close, they look entirely different.

Serra's stuff? I've seen better, I've seen worse...
posted by Tube at 8:39 AM on November 27, 2008


"Despite this rewarding surface, [Fernando Pessoa, Gagosian, 2008, is] a kind of mental affront. For this reviewer it immediately evoked the Berlin wall in scale and look, but also to a degree in message. It’s meant as an obstacle, a blockage, and as such it’s intensively provocative. The scale of Serra’s work means that the viewer is compelled to walk around them to get the full effect, and this is precisely what the artist intends. You are meant to be in motion as you see these pieces, moving not only through space but also through time. Serra’s art is far from passive."

-- Me, reviewing the Serra show on at the moment at the Gagosian in London. I adore Serra's work. He interact directly with the viewer, but doesn't impose a conclusion on them. Isn't that incredible? And I don't agree with the statement that his works are "massy"; mostly, they're imposing, and they certainly weigh a lot, but really they're acrobatic and amazingly thin and delicate.

Is it against self-linking rules to link to my full review? It's not my best effort but it's directly relevant to this discussion and has some direct quotes from Serra. about his work.
posted by WPW at 8:58 AM on November 27, 2008


Here you go.
posted by chuckdarwin

Cool one, thanks.
Although the pictures taken from above are somehow misleading: they do show the overall shapes of Serra's works but it tends to emphasize them as sculptures. Which is what everybody call them, but I don't think they are. Michel Ange, Rodin, Giacometti, Picasso, Brancusi made sculptures: artistic objects. But my perception of the best of Serra, these gigantic pieces of steel, is more as space dividers, space definers, space statements. That's why I think they always should be seen from the ground: they trace spaces defined, evoked, imposed in relation to human size. It's the combined effect of those spaces, and their apertures and the massive neutral solidity of the rusted steel that makes them awesome, not the objects by themselves.

Faze: If you were a sculptor given the task of creating "a visceral sense of awe" in a viewer
I don't think Serra is doing any task. I am not even sure (you would have to ask him) if he is looking for "awe". Personally, I see his works more like complements to dance, evocations of lightness, songs to movements in 3D.
posted by bru at 9:08 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


On non-preview: what WPW said. And I would like to read your review: a mod will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that a self link in this context is more that an allowed if it enriches the topic.
posted by bru at 9:15 AM on November 27, 2008


I did a report on him in college. It's easy to balk but I really enjoy walking through 'Joe' when I'm at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis. It's disorienting. Also, some dude in the hamptons has a giant Serra piece in his front yard.
posted by saul wright at 9:20 AM on November 27, 2008


My review.
posted by WPW at 9:26 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


What would "a poor imitation of a Richard Serra" be?

There is no such thing.
There is nothing that could be such a thing.
Except for -- a Richard Serra itself.

His art is to art as Not Even Wrong is to science.

(+Faze -RMutt)
posted by hexatron at 9:37 AM on November 27, 2008


@ chuckdarwin: Well, to the best of my knowledge, the Venus De Milo never killed anyone.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:07 AM on November 27, 2008


Don't you guys get it? Serra is an establishment artist. He's "the Man." He's a self-satisified white male who uses his privilege to plop tons of pointless steel on streets and in museums and give you the finger at the same time. He asserts his presence in this heavy and indestructible fashion with full confidence that his actions will be greeted with squeals of pain from all those people who don't matter (office workers and the working class in general) and squeals of delight from his own people. For a white man to create a huge heavy piece of steel and say "Behold I am here" is redundant. The whole western world is already testimony to his power. The day a minority artist or woman tries to drop one of these huge hunks of metal on the sidewalk, you call me. I was mistaken when I called Richard Serra the George Bush of art. He's actually the Donald Trump of art.

You seem to be hung up on destroying art.

I take art seriously enough to wish to see a great deal of it destroyed.
posted by Faze at 12:21 PM on November 27, 2008


The day a minority artist or woman tries to drop one of these huge hunks of metal on the sidewalk, you call me.

Anish Kapoor.

Rachel Whiteread's concrete casts and Louise Bourgeois' giant steel spiders and steel towers also spring to mind.

Faze, Serra would be the first to defend your dislike of his work as a wholly valid reaction - he says he's fine with any feeling that intersects with the viewer's experience of his work. That's not the attitude of contempt that you attribute to him. Did you know that he comes from a poor background, and his relationship with steel comes from having worked with it? He was, is, working class. He cites Hepworth as a major influence. And unlike a lot of "establishment" artists he's not governed by the market - resale of his pieces is essentially impossible, so there's no trade in Serras to assign value.

You're right that the Western world is a steel testimony to power, and you're right, but that makes Serra's work profoundly valuable - he was the first artist to really address steel, to make forms that could only be made in steel, to interrogate and and coax this material that shapes our lives. He takes this worker metal and lets it sings and dance, gives it a day off, lets it go for a walk. He lets it express all its amazing colours and textures.

That's my response at least.
posted by WPW at 12:50 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]



I take art seriously enough to wish to see a great deal of it destroyed.


I think it all belongs. Even the stuff I hate. The Spice Girls are the epitome of bad music, IMO, but I wouldn't want to rob someone else who loves them.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:17 PM on November 27, 2008


the Venus De Milo never killed anyone.

I missed the bit where a Serra piece killed someone.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:22 PM on November 27, 2008


to the best of my knowledge, the Venus De Milo never killed anyone

She's 'armless.
posted by WPW at 1:24 PM on November 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


I can't believe that the guy who produced Television Delivers People is now being called "The Man". It's ludicrous.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:32 PM on November 27, 2008


He was the first artist to really address steel, to make forms that could only be made in steel, to interrogate and and coax this material that shapes our lives.

Hmmm.

Louise Bourgeois' giant steel spiders...

Yeah, I hate those things, too. But thank you for your excellent reply.
posted by Faze at 1:33 PM on November 27, 2008


That's a beautiful photo of the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm not wild about Bourgeois. But I do rate Whiteread and Kapoor.

Stuff getting in the way: Claes Oldenburg proposed a gigantic block of concrete, wholly filling a New York crossroads, as a war memorial. It would be a monstrous imposition on the city, a vast obstruction, something awful and unavoidable. You would not be able to just drive or walk past it. There would be no marching past it. An amazing thought.
posted by WPW at 2:00 PM on November 27, 2008


Incredible post by the way chuckdarwin. An awesome homage.
posted by nickyskye at 2:04 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like this post, but I remember reading about the Tilted Arc removal when it happened and was completely sympathetic to folks who hated the piece. I don't see how anyone can justify such a direct attack on the usability of an open public space, and Serra's attempt was terrible:

Tilted Arc is a curving wall of raw steel, 120 feet long and 12 feet high, that carves the space of the Federal Plaza in half. Those working in surrounding buildings must circumvent its enormous bulk as they go through the plaza. According to Serra, this is the point, "The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer's movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes."

Oh, please. I'm looking forward to learning more about Serra. But Tilted Arc was a horrible thing to plop down in a high-traffic public plaza.
posted by mediareport at 3:48 PM on November 27, 2008


Thanks, nickyskye. I saw a space and I filled it. Courage is underrated.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:32 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tilted Arc was a horrible thing to plop down in a high-traffic public plaza.

I wish that I'd had the opportunity to make that decision for myself... before the cowards destroyed it.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:33 PM on November 27, 2008


I missed the bit where a Serra piece killed someone.

It is a reference to a fatal accident that occurred during the installation of one of Serra's works, in 1971.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:11 PM on November 27, 2008


Yes, but he was a rigger. I don't want to diminish his death, but he Serra wasn't at fault. It was an 'art accident'.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:38 PM on November 27, 2008


Well, chuckdarwin, I guess you're no rigger-lover
(note--this is a removable comment)
posted by hexatron at 6:16 PM on November 27, 2008


I hadn't known about Tilted Arc. In ~2003 he was about to do the same sort of thing at Caltech. They have a small campus, but a few precious greens to play frisbee or soccer, just outside housing or offices. He wanted to put a huge, long, zigzaggy wall of steel for a couple mil, completely ruining any possible use by students. Protestors mocked him with a wall of trash, and there was enough of a ruckus that they asked for another design (which he refused). They didn't build it in the end.

In reality, the green was non-ideally hilly for play, and on the edge of campus, but I bet it would have stung to dedicate that much space to something with so little meaning.
posted by gensubuser at 8:34 PM on November 27, 2008


before the cowards destroyed it.

I appreciate your strong feelings here, chuck (anytime 1/4 of the comments in a thread come from the original poster you can bet there are strong feelings), but think your emotions are clouding your judgment on this point. I don't think it's necessarily the case that everyone who doesn't want a functional open space disrupted permanently counts as a "coward."
posted by mediareport at 10:09 PM on November 27, 2008


I find it ironic that Serra has a Mini-Feed.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:56 AM on November 30, 2008


The Imagine documentary was great. Especially the parts talking about his early training in Paris. "I spent the days taking photos of Brancusi's studio, and then went to dinner with my good friend Philip Glass, and then usually Alberto Giacometti showed up after a day of sculpting with plaster in his hair." Also the bit about running a moving company in NYC with Philip Glass and Chuck Close.
posted by smackfu at 7:29 AM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


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