May 16th, 2012

The Menil Collection — Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective

There are so many benefits to living in Houston, Texas. First, the weather is beautiful when it wants to cooperate, the cost of living is reasonable compared to other big cities and finally the exhibitions that are brought here is priceless. The Menil Collection has Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective currently on view until June 10, 2012.

As I walk through the first room of the exhibition, there are a number of charcoal and paintstick drawings that are framed with an intense and cautious stroke and strokes of the hand. I feel a sense of great technical ability at work here. Expressing ideas like line and movement. My painting background reminds me that these could be studies for larger pieces, but this is the great Richard Serra, a true master of creativity. So I know that his ideas are more complex than what is being presented on the surface. Serra’s installations whether drawing or sculptural deal with the power of configuration, space, shape, and scale. His Art and Forms are interesting and dynamic and carry a great relationship toward the public, the environment, and the surrounding space it contaminates.

Richard Serra, Taraval Beach, 1977
Paintstick on Belgian linen, Shown installed at the Whitney Museum of American Art,
Whitney Biennial, Collection of the artist, Richard Serra © 2010 Artist Rights Society (ARS),
New York
Photo: BeVan Davies

The artist’s ideas of weight, volume, surface, and application are embedded in every image framed and unframed. You can see Serra’s obsessiveness with each stroke. His Rounds, out of rounds, and Line drawings possess a fluidity and presence that is not only energetic but demands attention. Serra’s philosophy touches on the idea that the Artist has the duty to open new windows in the area of art making. His Belgian linen pieces alter the space of the Menil exhibition rooms as well as dwarfs man’s stature. The artworks confront the viewer head on and force the spectator to analyze what they are experiencing.

These drawings are dynamic and the Belgian Linen pieces stapled to the wall are remarkable. They could be seen as paintings. Serra addresses concerns that the idea of Drawing can sit alongside Painting and demand equal attention. Serra’s language was invented not out of necessity but of demand. His ability to create a new process helped him arrange a new and unique visual language. I feel Serra is one of the first to introduce a system of Art, not just for one medium but for several.

Serra’s “Triangle” Paintstick on Belgian Linen 1974/2011 is one of my favorites. Found in the second room of the exhibition, it discharges a silent energy. I find the shape very harmonious. Everything that needs to be expressed is done with an oversized black triangle. I only wished it could fit in my one bedroom apartment. What I find in Serra’s work is a number of dualities that can be expressed like Presence versus Absence, Physical versus Spiritual ideas, and movement versus stillness. As I come toward the end of the show, I have to admit his paint stick drawings are quite appealing and wouldn’t mind owning one or two. Serra has a unique method to his technique which involves linking analytic and deductive reasoning to create a new tier of visual forms.

His “Two Corner Cut: High Low 2012 Paintstick on Belgian Linen is a masterpiece. As I walk toward the image it makes me feel like I am descending a staircase. It is by far the largest drawing at the Menil. The color alone changes the room and expands it somehow. Serra gives you part of the equation to making great art unfortunately for us he doesn’t divulge everything we would like to know. Serra is one of the top five living sculptors and his Art should not be missed.

Richard Serra Drawing
A Retrospective @ The Menil Collection

1535 Sul Ross Street Houston, Texas 77006

Ph: 713-525-9400
Thru June 10, 2012
11am-7pm Wed.-Sun.

- Submitted by Jesse Kantu

— The Loop Scoop


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