Sunday, March 4, 2012

Richard Serra: Drawing

A retrospective of Richard Serra's drawings opened on Thursday night at the Menil. I was fortunate enough to attend both the book signing and the conversation between Serra and co-curator of the exhibit, Michelle White.

Richard Serra is extremely charismatic and filled the room with laughter more than a handfull of times with his anecdotes of Robert Smithson's dinner parties (where Carl AndrĂ© and Donald Judd were both guests) and his frequent and perfectly timed, humorous interruptions of White's questions.

He spoke of drawing as a language, completely separate from writing and speaking and emphasized the importance of the notebooks he constantly carries (a few of which are on view outside the galleries). Individuals create different visual languages depending on what it is they are trying to convey, and after an intense back and forth banter with an audience member, Serra made it clear that his visual language is not composed to evoke emotion. If I may attempt to quote him, "It's fine if you have an emotional reaction to the work, just don't blame me."

From quoting Louis Kahn on the importance of responding to your materials,
(some variation of this famous quote --

You say to brick, “What do you want, brick?” Brick says to you, “I like an arch.” If you say to brick, “Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that brick?” Brick says, “I like an arch.”)

to visually showing his distaste (by pretending to gag himself with a finger down his throat) for the ways acclaimed art historian Rosalind Krauss has described his work, to making puns about his former color theory professor Josef Albers while defending his use of only black when he said he just isn't interested in how red looks when placed next to pink, Serra humorously asserted his place in the art historial canon.

The drawings themselves warrant their own post, which I will write up after I got back and see them in natural light; I feel the experience will be very different than in the gallery lighting of the late night opening. 

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