Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London
11 October 2014 - 4 March 2015
The Gagosian Gallery, London recently exhibited a few select works by the renowned sculptor Richard Serra, perhaps most recognisable for his large scale steel installations. This exhibition was no different as the gallery featured the following works 'Backdoor Pipeline', 'Ramble', 'Dead Load' and 'London Cross'.
As is often the case with Serra's work, the sheer scale and mass of his sculptures dominate the space as you pass through it. The presence of these enormous forms have a breathtaking exchange that is only experienced face to face. It is only with such an interaction that you truly acknowledge and embody the physical grounding of the material and scale that Serra tends to work in.
|Ramble (2014) by Richard Serra. Photograph by Mike Bruce|
Ramble (2014) consists of a room filled with rows of oblong shaped forms that vary in size but are generally large enough to match the average height of a visitor or tower a few inches above. This immediately creates an interesting synergy between the viewer and Serra's forms, as we are made to create an instant relationship between us and this series of sculpture. The layout of these objects feels maze-like and one is compelled to meander their way through the plane of steel blocks. The distance between the blocks in some places is just wide enough to accommodate, once again emphasising the scale of the work in direct relation to the viewer. As well as appreciating the scale of each of these forms, I often felt a desire to touch them and truly appreciate their materiality and surface. There is obviously a fascination Serra has with steel and his repeated use of this material focuses the viewer's attention on just how this material functions and presents itself.
|Backdoor Pipeline (2010) by Richard Serra. Photograph by Mike Bruce|
A separate space housed Backdoor Pipeline (2010), a fifteen metre curved corridor that has a cavern like quality. There was something unusually organic about the form of this corridor, like a passageway leading underground or the path into a cave. Perhaps this felt even more so due to the weathering of the steel and how sound echoes and travels through the space. The slight curve in the work was just enough that at a certain point inside the sculpture you couldn't see the light at the opposite end of the tunnel. I noticed how I struggled to maintain a series of clear steps through the corridor. I found that the curve actually threw my balance off slightly and I would wobble or become overwhelmed in the height of the steel above me, that my feet would wander off kilter. There certainly was something odd about the passage from the inside that I couldn't quite place, but wasn't unpleasant.
|London Cross (2014) by Richard Serra. Photograph by Mike Bruce.|
Perhaps my personal favourite piece from the exhibition is London Cross (2014) which bisects one of the galleries with two sheets of steel, crossed over on top of one another. What I felt worked so well about this work was how it used the geometry of the white cube to bisect the space down its diagonal, and standing in each half of the divide felt like two completely independent spaces. I studied the corners of the room where the sheets of metal appeared to seamlessly continue into the walls. The way the steel crossed the room felt like extensions of what existing features were already there. Again that Serra used to correspond to the height of a visitor, enough to create a boundary that you couldn't quite look over, and yet not too dominating that it just felt like confronting barricade. It was an architectural sculpture that worked so well in its simplicity.
Serra continues to be one of the leading artists creating such monumentally works that engage with its visitors still on an intimate level. Serra's work can make you feel very small, in every possible way: in size, weight and general physicality. In doing so, you become unwittingly hyper aware of your own body and its vastly different characteristics.