In Richard Serra (San Francisco, 1939), twentieth century sculpture has one of the craftsman behind the revival of its innate values: weight, mass, monumentality, a desire for permanence, who through his sculptural expression incites the active consideration of the viewer and formulates a necessary relationship between sculpture and space. Although Serra emerges on the New York art scene at the end of the sixties as a Minimalist artist alongside Carl André and Sol Lewitt, he soon expresses his desire to: “Escape from the theory of good form (and the opposing figure-ground it is based on)”, as the art critic and historian, Yves-Alain Bois, indicates. His first works display an artistic interest in the possibilities raw and unused materials (rubber, neon, leather, lead), which can be appreciated in the piece Belts (1966-1967). The conception and arrangement of these works highlight the rejection of idealised sculptural practice placed on a pedestal (involving a static sculpture with one unique central viewpoint), explored further in his later work which displays an intrinsic transitive nature, as is the case in the sculpture Walzstrasse I (1983). Its main aim is to consider the redefinition of the space it is located in and participate in the viewer's spacial experience, leading them to compare proportions.
For this first retrospective exhibition on Spanish soil, Serra himself has selected the ensemble of sixteen works, realised between 1966 and 1989, although it is worth noting that some of the sculptures have been produced in earlier projects to take into the consideration the particular conditions of the exhibition space. The exhibition, more than being a retrospective in the strictest sense of the word, opens up the possibility of ascertaining Serra's development of sculptural concepts and the formal language they are based on and highlights at least two primordial elements of space in Serra's work. Firstly, the assumption that this is the main factor that does not solely determine the work (dimensions, arrangement, composition). Secondly, his work distinguishes between architectural space (thus the sculpture becomes a transient space) while also needing it as a context for the pieces and to modify the viewer's experience of it.
Works such as Plunge (1983), T-Junction (1988) and Anvil (1988) illustrate this notion of the occupation and development of space in his work and the dominance of verticality, which alludes to the fact that Serra works from an elevated position, not the ground, and believes that they must be seen from above. As Serra himself asserts in reference to this matter: “When you are building a piece that weighs 100 tonnes you have to work under determined codes.”
Collection artworks included in the exhibition
Museo Reina Sofía Publications