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Richard Serra, one of the most significant artists of the 20th-century, has created a line of work marked by massive steel curvatures. Gravity defying, they test mankind’s ability to forge shapes and walls that appear weightless. His new sculptures at Gagosian in New York do the opposite, instead using vertical, slightly oppressive steel walls to splice up the gallery space. The chevrons are placed zigzagged across the gallery, like a Berlin Wall-maze, they both confuse and awe. Dark and ominous, they seem to suggest that they are a product of a weighty and brooding mind.
Yet, Serra states: “I feel so psychologically grounded here in a way that I don’t in the weightless curvy spaces.”
Pieces such as Grief and Reason (for Walter), which comprises several sarcophagus blocks, make one instinctively think of death. The work is dedicated to Walter de Maria, a minimalist sculptor who died in July. Maria was one of the first artists Serra met in New York during the 1960s at one of Warhol’s factory parties, where Maria played drums for the Velvet Underground. Maria became a mentor to Serra, encouraging him to focus on making art rather than cultivating a persona.
Inside Out, a work that harkens back to Serra’s convex designs, is also on display, although the sculptor now considers that sensibility to be “baroque” next to his more sleek steel creations.
Many of his works have become immense pieces of architecture in their own right. People tell Serra that they have done yoga and held weddings within his sculptures, feats that would be equally plausible in his new momentous structures.
“New Sculptures” will be on view at Gagosian’s West 21st Street location until February 8, 2014 and its West 24th Street gallery through March 15, 2014.