Sunday, April 6, 2008

Richard Serra at LACMA

The world's best-known sculptor owes it to---dance.

torqued and cramped

notes by Joseph Mailander

Richard Serra had a fireside chat with about 400 Wilshire boulevardiers at LACMA Wednesday, and surprised his audience with a few nonplussed responses.

Serra described his hanging around the contemporary dance scene in New York City in the early 1970's as informing the way that he might conceive volume in a room. He reminisced about a particular performance in which a series of people, perhaps thirty, were jumping off of the roof of a two-storey building---from inside, as they dropped past a window, they created a motion-picture effect.

Frame is a large issue with Serra, and how a piece might reside in a room is of utmost concern to him---he doesn't, for instance, favor MoMA's featuring of works of his that weigh-in at substantial tonnage on the second floor---it's counterintuitive to the massing.

Corb's Ronchamp church is also an influence, and at one point he hung his arms out like a crucifix and asked his interviewer about "that piece down the road from it"---he meant the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, which has complicated panels including crucifixion and resurrection and has a sculptural presence although it's known as a painting. Early in his talk, he hauled out Ad Reinhardt's famous canard that "modern sculpture is what you back into when looking at modern painting."

And he took some credit for ushering in Bilbao to the cosmopolitan world. As a docker's city, it appealed to his workman's side; and he also acknowledged the influence of ETA on a trip there: he was assured that if he spoke to university students his work would be removed from the museum. He did, and it was. He admonished sculptors to take all commissions and work on whatever they can in between, because commissions are just too undependable over time.


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