Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dark Star


Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective
Metropolitan Museum

Good old adorable Richard Serra, cute as a button, whats not to like?
Well, according to the artist during his 2008 interview in the Guardian: “I don't give a shit but I care quite a lot.”
So where does that leave his befuddled but adoring public art aficionados? Perhaps admiring substantial works on paper with titles such as: “US Courts Partial to Government” and “The United States Government Destroys Art”. These typically monolithic concepts allude to the artist’s controversial public art fiascos in New York and California, and his reputation for grouchy, left-leaning proclamations.
Something tells me this guy has a really big heavy chip on his shoulder. But good for him, he’s proven he can take it, and with his “revenge drawings” it’s been best served Xtra Large.
Serra’s humorless, monumental obstructions, dominating and oppositionally defiant, still manage to convey the artist’s touch, and this long over due exhibit of his works (mostly) on paper gives us a sense of Serra’s funkier side.
Patina is the heart and soul of Serra’s art, the softer side of the iron man. The “Forged Drawings” series exemplify the fortitude of matter, while entropic decay (rust) seduces the flesh. The slightly sweet whiff of Ivory Black entices us with the possibility of undulation. The potential for malleability however remote, draws us in, while simultaneously, resolutely stolid object-ness commands authority, rebuffing any flirtation with delight. 
The “Forged Drawings” are as intimate as Serra has ever become, approaching radiance despite their immense gravity and gooey coats of paint stick.
The “out-of-round” group of works on handmade paper starts to suggest post war painting outside the minimalist constrictions of monochromatic flatness. These pulsating black holes stuffed with fermenting black carbon exude a painterly mess; much the way Pollack espoused splashy whippets of untamed pigment.     
The larger scale works on linen from the ‘70s, such as “Abstract Slavery” are stapled to the wall in a causal looking manner, most likely as they were in the studio. They are attached to the wall slightly off kilter, skewing our reference to “square” and setting a nice perceptual shift in motion. This is one of Serra’s keys to keeping such formidable work from becoming too static.
Calling the artist a minimalist becomes a misnomer. Serra’s work is really all about maximalism. His blackened blank screens are primed for total absorption of all mass, light, and sensation. They contain everything and nothing.
Although ego driven his work always denies personality, a totalitarian polemic guides the artist’s process. This is art deprived of spontaneity, and improvisation but rich in grandeur and architecture.  
His formalist zeal for rigidity and manifesto constantly reminds us that theres little room for dissent, its Serra’s way or the highway.  






Forged Drawings, installation view.



Forged Drawing Round



Richard Serra (American, b. 1939)
out-of-round X, 1999
Paintstick on handmade Hiromi paper; 79 1/2 x 79 in.
Private collection
© Richard Serra
Photo: Rob McKeever

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