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Richard Serra Graphic Oeuvre To Be Displayed At The Kunsthaus Bregenz

In an unparalleled exhibition, the Kunsthaus Bregenz will be showing more than 60, mostly large-format drawings by one of the major sculptors and draftsmen of our day. Following exhibitions in Maastricht 1990 (Bonnefantenmuseum) and in London 1992 (Serpentine Gallery), this will be the first comprehensive presentation of Richard Serra’s graphic oeuvre ever shown in Europe. The exhibition is arranged on four levels and comprises the large-format “Diptychs,” 1989, the series “Weight and Measure,” 1994, “Rounds,” 1996/97, and “out-of-rounds,” 1999, and the artist’s most recent works “Solids,” 2007/08, and “Forged Drawing,” 2008.

Selected in conjunction with the artist, the works on display bring together key work series from important private collections and museums in Europe and the USA, as well as new pieces produced by Richard Serra especially for the exhibition in Bregenz. All in all, the exhibition will include six work series, setting the stage for a dialogue spanning nearly twenty years of artistic production.

Richard Serra was born in San Francisco in 1939. After studying painting with Josef Albers at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where he graduated in 1964/65, Serra continued his training abroad, spending a year each in Florence and Paris. Since then, Richard Serra has lived in New York, where he first used rubber in 1966 and began applying his characteristic work material lead in 1968. Here, also, the principles of supporting and leaning were put to the test, which were later expanded to become the fundamental principle of his sculptural work. During this time he developed his own sculptural grammar, which was based on formal reductionism, an active site-specific reference, and the central theme of gravity and balance. This results in sculptures that let the viewer experience the critical balance of different forces and whose large-scale dimensions impart a strong physical and emotional experience.

Serra’s first solo exhibition in 1969 at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York was followed by many large international presentations of his sculptural work, landscape projects, and site-specific installations using his primary material: steel. After his large-scale retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2007, Richard Serra is currently showing “Promenade,” the monumental sculpture he created for the Grand Palais in Paris.

Since 1971, Serra has focused not only on sculptural works, but also on large-scale drawings using various techniques. These are as important to him as his sculptures, and as the artist himself explains: “I like to draw. It is an activity I rely on, a dependency of sorts. Drawing gives me an immediate return for my effort and the result is commensurate with my involvement. It is an activity that requires solitude, it is the most concentrated space in which I work.”

In another context, he calls drawing the source of his artistic activity, not least because it affords him the freedom to think about the elementary conditions of his sculptural pieces without needing to rework them. Serra has always drawn. He was accepted to the Yale School of Art based on the drawings he submitted. The color he uses in his drawings is black. A dense layer of paintstick absorbs and dissipates light; what emerges is the mass, density, and volume of the drawing. “Black is a property, not a quality. In terms of weight, black is heavier, creates a larger volume, holds itself in a more compressed field.To use black is the clearest way of marking against a white field.” (Richard Serra) In other words, the artist finds it is also the clearest way of indicating something without triggering associations because black is interpreted as a material substance rather than a color.

Richard Serra’s drawing material is the paintstick, a wax-like grease crayon. Serra melts several paintsticks to form large pigment blocks. This transformation allows him to apply the black material in broad, dense strokes. Warming or melting the material for his drawings, he applies it either directly onto the paper with large sweeps of his arm, or he uses a window-screen as an intermediary surface through which he presses the color. In his recent “Solids,” Richard Serra goes a step further. “Melted paintstick is poured onto a hard surface on the floor. 
With a few exceptions where the front is marked through a blackened screen, no direct drawing is done on the front of the paper. I don’t see the drawing I am making until the paper is pulled off the floor and turned over or the screen is lifted.”

Serra avoids gestural features in order to sharpen the awareness of the viewer and draw attention to one’s own corporeality. He is not concerned with subjective gestures or narrative references; at the core of his drawings is the principle of marking, of the anonymous characteristic style in which the drawing seems to find its form through the density of the material and the compact work process. Precisely because every illusory strategy is avoided, the forms are at the same time able to imply weight, mass, and volume. For, particularly through his training with Josef Albers, Richard Serra is fully aware that the weight of a drawing does not just depend on the layers of paintstick applied, but above all on its form.

Serra’s programmatic drawing concept of connecting body awareness with material and integrating both visual and tactile perception allows the viewer to experience a densified, intensified space in connection with densified, materialized time.


August 11, 2008 - Posted by | Art Exhibitions, Artists, News, raw art gallery, Uncategorized | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] of friction, to stretch, to bounce, to erase, to spray, to systematize, to refer, to force, of mapping, of location, of context, of time, of carbonization, to continue posted by chuckdarwin (41 […]

    Pingback by To Roll, To Crease, To Fold... | MetaFilter | November 28, 2008 | Reply

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