History of Our World

The Matter of Time | Richard Serra

Posted in Art, Object, Print by R on March 17, 2010

Forming of the plates for The Matter of Time at Pickhan Umformtechnik, Siegen, Germany

Serra (center) and others installing One Ton Prop (House of Cards) at the Museum of Art, RISD, Providence, 1969

Robert Smithson and Richard Serra, 1970

Frames from Hand Catching Lead, 1968

Tilted Arc, 1981. Weatherproof steel, cylindrical section tilted into the ground, 12′ x 120′ (3.66 x 36.58 m), plate thickness 2½” (6.5 cm). General Services Administration, Washington D.C. Installed at Federal Plaza, New York, 1981-89; destroyed by the United States Government, 1989.

Installation of To Encircle Base Plate Hexagram, Right Angles Inverted at 183rd Street and Webster Avenue, Bronx, New York, 1970.

Shift, 1970-72. Concrete, six sections; section one: 5′ x 240′ (1.52 x 73.15 m); section two: 5′ x 150′ (1.52 x 45.72 m); section three: 5′ x 120′ (1.52 x 36.57 m); section four: 5′ x 105′ (1.52 x 32 m); section five 5′ x 110′ (1.52 x 33.52 m); section six 5′ x 90′ (1.52 x 27.43 m); section thickness: 8″ (20 cm). Installed in King City, Ontario, Canada.

Serpentine, 1993. Weatherproof steel, two units, each comprised of two conical sections, each section: 13’2″ x 52′ (4 x 15.85 m); length overall: 104′ (31.7 m): plate thickness 2″ (5 cm). Collection of Frances and John Bowes, Sonoma, California.

Torqued Ellipse II, 1996. Weatherproof steel, 12′ 29′ x 20’5″ (3.66 x 8.83 x 6.22 m); plate thickness: 2″ (5 cm). Dia Art Foundation. Gift of Leonard and Louise Riggio.

Afangar (Stations, Stops on the Road, to Stop and Look: Forward and Back, to Take It All In), 1990. Basalt, eighteen stones; nine: 9’10” x 1’9″ x 1’9″ (3 x .55 x .55 m): nine: 13’1½” x 1’9″ x 1’9″ (4 x .55 x .55 m). City of Reykjavik, Iceland. Installed Videy Island, Reykjavik Harbor.

Richard Serra, photographed by Robert Frank, 2002

The List:

To roll, to crease, to fold, to store, to bend, to shorten, to twist,
to dapple, to crumple, to shave, to tear, to chip, to split, to cut,
to sever, to drop, to remove, to simplify, to differ, to disarrange,
to open, to mix, to splash, to knot, to spell, to droop, to flow,
to curve, to lift, to inlay, to impress, to fire, to flood, to smear,
to rotate, to swirl, to support, to hook, to suspend, to spread,
to hang, to collect –

of tension, of gravity, of entropy, of nature, of grouping,
of layering, of felting –

to grasp, to tighten, to bundle, to heap, to gather, to scatter,
to arrange, to repair, to discard, to pair, to distribute, to surfeit,
to complement, to enclose, to surround, to encircle, to hide,
to cover, to wrap, to dig, to tie, to bind, to weave, to join,
to match to laminate, to bond, to hinge, to mark, to expand,
to dilute, to light, to modulate, to distill –

of waves, of electromagnetism, of inertia, of ionization,
of polarization, of refraction, of simultaneity, of tides, of reflection,
of equilibrium, of symmetry, of friction –

to stretch, to bounce, to ease, to spray, to systematize,
to refer, to force –

of mapping, of location, of context, of time, of carbonization –

to continue.

The “Verb list” established a logic whereby the process that constituted a sculpture remains transparent. Anyone can reconstruct the process of the making by viewing the residue.
The sculptures resulting from the “Verb list” introduced two aspects of time: the condensed time of their making and the durational time of their viewing.

Both tasks and materials were ordinary. I was tearing lead in place, lifting rubber in place, rolling and propping lead sheets, and melting lead and splashing it against the juncture between wall and floor. The activities were experimental and playful. It wasn’t the question of how to accomplish this or that, nor was it the question of making it up as I went along: it was rather a free-floating combination of both.
I cannot overemphasize the need for play, for in play you don’t extract yourself from your activity. In order to invent I felt it necessary to make art a practice of affirmative play or conceptual experimentation. The ambiguity of play and its transitional character provides suspension of belief whereby a shift in direction is possible when faced with a complexity that you don’t understand. Free from skepticism, play relinquishes control. Play allows one to accept discontinuities and continuities; it also allows one to happen upon solutions or invent them. However, even in play the task must be carried out with conviction. It’s how we do what we do that confers meaning on what we have done.

– Richard Serra (excerpt from Questions, Contradictions, Solutions, 2004)


The Matter of Time

Richard Serra : Hal Foster : Carmen Giménez : Kate D. Nesin



(This publication accompanies the installation of The Matter of Time at the Guggenheim Bilbao. Curated and organized by Carmen Giménez. Sponsored by Arcelor)


Richard Serra


Guggenheim Bilbao