“What interests me is the opportunity for all of us to become something different from what we are, by constructing spaces that contribute something to the experience of who we are.” – Richard Serra
The first time I experienced a Richard Serra was at Dia Beacon in Beacon, NY. I was able to walk through his skewed ellipses. I think I remember him saying that when he designed maquettes, he had no idea what the actual experience would be like to walk around the full-scale installation. Let me tell you, this is when actually being in the piece of art far outweighs looking at pictures of it. My sense of equilibrium was challenged as I went through the spiral ellipse. 2″ thick steel walls that soared way above my head started to curve in as I walked through, then they curved back out again. I had the feeling like I was in a canyon in the Midwest where the walls kept getting closer and closer the further I walked, only to bound apart and reveal a magical place.
You know, as I write this it sounds like gibberish. I’m telling you that there is no way to describe the sensation…in fact I’m guessing that my reaction is very different than other people’s. For me it was a proprioceptive experience that played with my sense of balance and which way was up. For a better written synopsis and more information on Richard Serra, visit the Dia Beacon website.
In 2008 I visited France with some friends. After getting somewhat claustrophobic in the Louvre I was delighted to split off from my friends for the rest of the day and ramble over to the Grand Palais (stopping by Serra’s older work “Clara-Clara” in the Tuileries) to see his newest work, “Promenade”. Once again, I was taken by how experiential it was. The Grand Palais is no hovel, and seems even bigger due to its glass ceiling. Here are some pictures that I took, I hope it gives you the idea of how huge they were and how fun it was to see them at different angles.
“Promenade” was actually part of a yearly exhibition at the Grand Palais called “Monumenta” and to see the other installations, check out their website. I am totally intrigued with how art can take up space and change your experience of life. A life-sized giraffe sculpture can seem kinda small when placed outdoors next to a row of mature pine trees. And yet I am in awe of Serra’s perseverance and sense of experimentation to create his sculptures.