Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective, at the Met

Four paintings of Richard Serra art hanging in black and white in the corner of the MET

Richard Serra Drawing, an expansive, 40-year survey of the great sculptor's art works on paper, proves, if nothing else, that this is an artist who can't do anything that doesn't feel like it weighs a ton. Now running at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the terrific exhibition features approximately 50 of Serra's drawings–mostly black, mostly textural, mostly enormous–spread throughout a dozen or so galleries on the Met's second floor. From his early sketchbooks to several massive, site-specific paintstick pieces completed especially for the exhibition, Richard Serra Drawing does an excellent job of not only exploring how the artist has used the medium as a means for experimenting with weight, and gravity, and material, but also clearly showing how his works on paper run parallel, creatively, to his renowned raw-and-rusted steel sculptural pieces.   


A Richard Serra drawing on white paper with big circlular strokes of charcoal in black

Richard Serra Drawing at the Met is filled with pieces we love. The "circle" drawings of the late 1990s and early 2000s are a particular favorite–especially "September", above, and the explosive "out of round X", below–both for their loose, almost frantic aesthetic as well as their heaviness, and depth, as if you could almost get pulled in, black hole-like. Serra's charcoal and ink sketches are engaging as well, both as artworks in and of themselves, and as a neat way to get a peek into Serra's process, and thinking. And we love Serra's vibrant series of arcs, "A Drawing in Five Parts" from 2005, both for its energy and repetition, shown two-down, below. 

A large Richard Serra drawing of circle in thick, rich black paint on a white background


Five drawings lined up of circular shapes of thick black charcoal on a white background, framed in white

But the dominant take-away image here at the Met exhibition of Richard Serra Drawing are his huge, sometimes floor-to-ceiling, solid black compositions, made dimensional by the layers and layers and gobs and gobs of  oil stick. Non-reflective, monolithic, slightly unsettling (though occasionally teasing, and even a bit playful), Serra's pieces such as "No Mandatory Patriotism" and "The United States Government Destroys Art", pictured at top, show the artist at his most abstract-angry, and his unframed works like Taraval Beach, below, covering an entire wall, almost literally suck all of the light out of the room. The smell of oil stick is strong in these labyrinthine galleries, adding a visceral quality to the exhibition, much as when you stroll through Serra's sculptures, and you can taste the metal on your tongue. Richard Serra Drawing also has four early videos, including one of our all-time favorite moving-art pieces, Hand Catching Lead. For Richard Serra fans, this Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition is not to be missed. 

A floor to ceiling Richard Serra drawing in oil stick set against the white gallery wall creates a void of space

Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective at the Met Details  

Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective will be on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from now until August 28, 2011. The Met is located on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, and is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday until 9:00 p.m. Admission is always suggested at the Met, which makes it eminently affordable to pop in and see a a single show, and then be on your way. For more information about the Richard Serra art exhibition, and about the museum as a whole, please see the METt's website

Richard Serra drawing of tube shaped forms in black charcoal on white paper


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