Monumental minimalism would be a good way to describe the works of abstract sculptor Richard Serra. The 76-year-old artist works in steel and iron on a nearly architectural scale.
The gallery at West 21st Street is a vast space, but Serra has filled it utterly with only one work.
Steel and iron, rust and polish are most of his media.
“NJ-1” is a maze-like, tent-like work of rolled steel. Ribbon-like slabs, two inches thick and fourteen feet tall, curl and swerve into openings and shapes. Not a piece for claustrophobes, you’re invited to walk between massive pieces and feel the weight of all that metal leaning in immobility above you. Serra’s lips are sealed about whether or not he meant to invoke the religious ritual of walking a maze, but the furled shapes do make sure that each viewer has the chance to be isolated, alone with the work.
“Silence (for John Cage)” is a particularly striking piece. It’s eighty tons of forged steel, a slab lying flat on the floor. Nearly thirty feet long, nine feet wide, and knee high, it is simply mass, silent and still and seemingly unmovable. A fitting tribute to Cage’s avant-gard “composition,” four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence.
More hulking slabs appear as “Through,” the next piece. Three this time, standing on end like the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Their size and precision cuts the gallery in pieces. Walk around them, look between then, stand beside them, and you feel as if you are in difference spaces.
“Every Which Way” has sixteen slabs, just as precise if not as hulking. Each one is still nearly a foot think, and they increase in height the further among them you go. Like getting lost in a cemetery.
The Gagosian’s 21st Street gallery has 1 work on display and the 24th Street gallery has 4. Bothgalleries will be open until July 29th.