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Monday 06.11.07

« For You | Main | Keep your pants on »

Gravitating towards Serra

Serra's permanent installation "The Matter of Time" at Guggenheim Bilbao

Peter Scheldjahl has chimed in on Richard Serra's survey at MoMA in The New Yorker here (love their new very linkable site).

Jerry Saltz, Scheldjahl's gutsier, less poetic antipode says much the same but focuses better on the intimate (for Serra) work here. Like Saltz, I'm especially fond of Delineator, nothing by Serra before or since does as much with elemental gravity, if I were creating a dream collection... it would be a must have.

I've had a lot of really interesting conversations about Serra recently and most center around the fact that he's the last of the truly singular ambitionists… even Matthew Barney needed him (though probably not Barney's brightest moment, it came off as dippy). Sadly I think Serra is a dying breed, the artist that makes his own weather.. only Hirst and Murakami are similar but they seem to require more media attention, Serra can be Serra even when in unpopulated parts of Iceland. He's the cranky, macho artist that reminds me of a time when even scarier people like Frank Lloyd Wright and Miles Davis walked the earth. Serra is a pussycat compared to them.

Scheldjahl's typical (for him) poetry kicks off the review and paints Serra as a kind of master of spatial experience, suggesting that one not try to comprehend and instead simply, "play." There is some comfort in this as it suggests that at least one human being can create things which make mere comprehension a moot endeavor. Serra's work isn't to be understood as a conceptual conceit to flatter the viewer, it's a Melivillesque confrontation with the unknown… the Aurora Borealis in steel.

I also love this little conceit, "(To experience Serras in the Bilbao Guggenheim is to know how wonderful our present age can be)."

Why did Scheldjahl resort to parentheses there? Is it because he's so obviously right or that New York is years late to the game, one which was so ideally paired/played years ago in Spain? True, the Torqued Ellipses debuted in Chelsea but Dia has now abandoned New York City… one has to visit the ellipses permanent install up north at Dia Beacon instead.

Right now the full blown ambition of Serra can only inhabit New York on a temporary basis. Bilbao and Beacon have the great stuff all the time, but then again New York can't even get the WTC thing right…way to step up! Ok, something tells me New York City will get it together but right now it's kinda beautiful that Serra has literally outgrown New York.

In Portland we have some lil Serras at PAM (inside and outside) and in Seattle they have Wake (a somewhat underwhelming effort despite its size. It's a piece that needs the compression of being indoors to work best).

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 11, 2007 at 10:18 | Comments (1)


There has been an explosion of talk about Serra lately (in large part due to this new exhibit). Seems I can't go a single day without hearing his name a couple times. I anxiously await the day Portland will have a large Serra piece, and a space that does it justice, unlike "Wake" in Seattle. Just imagine seeing "Wake" crammed into a gallery that could barely hold it. That is when it would show it's power.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2007 09:55 PM

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