Richard Serra, "New Sculpture"
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Gagosian’s double dose of Richard Serra presents dueling sides of
the sculptor: the popular artist namechecked in a Vampire Weekend song, and the confrontational figure familiar from his earlier career.
The gallery’s West 21st Street location presents the former in fine form, with a single massive work. Curling ribbons of steel, set on edge and towering to ceiling height, nestle together to create Serra’s signature bowing and curving of space. They swallow viewers up in a phenomenological ecstasy one usually associates with, say, walking along a narrow canyon. The metal’s russet color only adds to the sensation of experiencing something more natural than man-made.
The tone, if not the scale, of the work shifts on West 24th Street, with a group of sculptures and nary a bend in sight. Hard-edged steel plates, patinated a carceral gray, get in your way like barricades around a government building. A set of enormous blocks serves as a memorial to the recently deceased sculptor Walter De Maria, a friend of Serra’s. Experiential warmth gives way to cold truths as Serra employs his legendary toughness to challenge not only gravity, but death itself.—Howard Halle