A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Monday, June 18

Richard Serra at the MoMA

I took Bo and Co to the MoMA last Saturday afternoon, and all three of us were totally blown away by Richard Serra's Sculpture: Forty Years, an extraordinary exhibition that is not only aesthetically amazing—even beautiful—but is also an engineering marvel and likely to be the most visceral art-viewing experience you'll ever have.

Don't believe me? Try NOT swaying slightly from side to side in tune with the undulating passages as you walk through Sequence, his massive, interconnected spirals on the second floor... or leaning backward as you approach the inverted walls of one of the immense cocoons within Band. You can taste the metal in the air; you can smell it and feel its deep chill and unimaginable weight in your chest. You can get seriously disorientated here, even lost (well... we did, anyway), and yet it seems more comforting than dangerous, thanks in part to the stunning suppleness of these giga-ton works.

The exhibit is divided into three parts. On the second floor are the real show-stoppers: three new, enormous, enveloping steel sculptures, Sequence, Band and Torqued Torus Inversion, that you walk through and around and within, and that you'll have to run your hands over even though all the signs tell you not to. Made from weatherproof steel, there's none of the rusting and oxidation that you might normally associate with Serra's work—here instead are long, seamless, almost placid surfaces. These three pieces are literally breathtaking.

On the sixth floor are a dozen or so earlier, "smaller" works, created from such typically Serra-ian hyper-masculine materials like vulcanized rubber, molten lead, and hot-rolled steel. We liked pretty much all of these sculptures as well (except maybe the neon-punctuated Belts), especially the Prop Pieces (seemingly precarious constructions made from incredibly heavy objects), and Circuit II, which is basically four huge steel plates, each shoved into a corner of a room, making a giant X, broken in the center. The thing is, these plates are only about an inch thick and about eight feet high, and they're standing upright, with nothing supporting them except their own weight, and possibly the corner... so how do they not fall over, especially when you shake them, as I did, much to horror of my lovely daughters? Security was pretty tight up here, so I only was able to take this shot, of these three incredible wall-leaning pieces.

Finally we went out to the museum's garden, where there are two more giant-size sculptures. These bear all the colorful, interesting scarring and rusting of other Serra works I've seen—it almost looks like rough sketching at times—and we particularly liked Intersection II, composed of four curved steel plates, creating three separate corridors and a multitude of perspectives. I loved the way it looked in the first photo below, almost like it's some ancient shipwreck, hidden in the trees.

Richard Serra's Sculpture: Forty Years will be at The Museum of Modern Art through September 10. We went in prime time—Saturday around 3:00—and even though it was crowded (though not nearly as packed as, say, an Impressionism show would be), the scale of everything is so massive that it made little difference.

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