Serra Seeks to Skew Perspective in MoMA Garden

Event: Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years
Location: Museum of Modern Art, through 09.10.07
Curators: Kynaston McShine — Chief Curator at Large, Museum of Modern Art; Lynne Cooke — Curator, Dia Art Foundation


Sequence (2006) by Richard Serra.

Photo by Lorenz Kienzle, courtesy Museum of Modern Art

Richard Serra’s massive sculptures, curved plates of rusted Cor-ten steel, appear velvety and tactile. Serra’s installations actively engage the viewer, inviting him or her to walk around the sculptures and experience the spaces created within. I resisted the urge to lean against the torqued surfaces (a similar grouping of Serra-created CorTen giants in the newly opened Seattle Sculpture Park by Weiss Manfredi Architects bears the mysterious and dire warning on an adjacent sign on no account to touch the rusty surface for fear of spoiling the alleged impact of those sculptures, according to a Chapter member newly returned from Seattle), but I recommend lying down on the floor in the middle of a sculpture to fully appreciate the undulating outline it creates.

In Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) presents the artist’s 40-year career, from his early experiments with materials such as rubber, neon, and lead, to monumental late-career pieces, including Intersection II (1992) and Torqued Ellipse IV (1999), along with three new works that have never been exhibited before. Serra’s work is often site-specific, and intimately integrated with the landscape, according to some critics and observers. Even though this effect could not be achieved at MoMA, viewing two of the pieces outdoors in The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, offers a new perspective. Serra’s other large-scale pieces are on view in the Contemporary Galleries, an expansive, stark space that exaggerates the size of the work.

Sequence, a particularly engaging sculpture, is shaped like a double figure eight. Viewers wander through as if in a maze, unsure exactly where they will emerge. This is literally an exhibition you can get lost in — be sure to bring your cell phone in case you get separated from others in your party.