Gallery  December 3, 2017  Andrea L. Volpe

A Lesson in Richard Serra at David Zwirner

Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London Photograph by Cristiano Mascaro

Richard Serra, Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure, 2017, Forged steel. © 2017 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NewYork.

Richard Serra: Sculpture and Drawings

David Zwirner New York
537 West 20th Street 

Through December 16, 2017

This small, spare show of forged-steel sculptures and recent drawings is a concentrated lesson in Serra’s two main bodies of work. The first-floor installation of sculptures is a tutorial in what sculptures can teach us about the space they—and we—occupy. In one room, Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure (2017) which is comprised of two tall forged cylinders and two squat rounds, are each astonishing beautiful objects in themselves, particularly the contrast between their palpable weight and volume and the small-scale richness of their hammered, pocked and pitted surfaces, inky black to oxidized umbers. Linger and the sculptures seem to reshape the space around them, heightening awareness of the room’s necessary ninety-degree angles. This is even more apparent in a narrow little side room, where the two forged blocks that make up Into and Across (2017) are set into corners, seeming to compress and narrow the space they are placed in.

Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London, Photograph by Cristiano Mascaro.

Richard Serra, Into and Across, 2017. Installation view, Richard Serra: Sculpture and Drawings, David Zwirner, NewYork, 2017. © 2017 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London Photograph by Rob McKeever

Richard Serra, AR Vertical #4, 2017 © 2017 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society(ARS), NewYork.

Upstairs, selections from several recent series of drawings, Rotterdam Horizontals (2016-2017), Rotterdam Verticals (2016-2017), AR Horizontals (2017), AR Verticals (2017), and a suite from Right Angle (2017), hover somewhere between monoprint and drawing. Made with etching ink, silica, and paintstick on handmade paper, they are black the way asphalt is black. Intensely graphic in material and form, they are a series of controlled experiments in what the weight and volume of the line can do. As drawings they resist every planar expectation. Instead, they have tangible volume. To more or lesser of a degree, the mark-making breaks the plane of the paper they are made on, drawing attention to the support as discrete from the elemental mark of a line.

Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London, Photograph by Rob McKeever

Richard Serra, Right Angle #1, 2017, Etching ink, silica, and paintstick on handmade paper © 2017 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NewYork.

In “Notes on Drawing,” Serra’s primer on his own process, Serra explained his choice of working entirely with black: it resists “metaphorical and other mis-readings," it “creates larger volume, holds itself in a more compressed field," and “it is comparable to forging.” Like sculpture, Serra sees his drawings as intervening in the space in which they are displayed, but “drawings,” he wrote, “are another kind of language.” 

Richard Serra: Sculpture and Drawings is on view at David Zwirner in New York at 537 West 20th Street through December 16, 2017.

About the Author

Andrea L. Volpe

Andrea L. Volpe is a cultural historian, essayist, and critic. She writes about photography, culture, and technology from Cambridge, Massachusetts. More at and on Twitter @andrealvolpe.

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