The influence that art and nature have on one another is evident in Richard Serra’s large-scale sculptures currently on display at Gagosian Gallery. These winding steel structures are reminiscent of the deep caves in the mountains of Colorado and Utah. Shades of orange vary in horizontal bands as the passageways wind and snake and the surface texture moves from rough to smooth like a chunk of redwall limestone.
Imprints of flowers and leaves mimic the look of fossils and vertical striations make the slabs of steel look like the trunks of a redwood tree; I touched the walls almost expecting a splinter or a handful of sand. The organic look that these pieces of contorted metal take on is part of what makes Serra’s aesthetic approach so powerful and is what separates his pieces from other conceptual or minimal artwork that lacks a sense of movement and unity with nature.
The bending curves narrow and widen and as they do so, the light from above waxes and, in places, wanes to a dark shadow. My favorite spot was a triangular shaped entranceway with bits of light shining onto the fossil-like imprints. Walking these rounded hallways, I felt like an archaeologist, my eyes constantly searching the walls for the next subtle traces of past life. Serra must have spent some time in nature, around rich woods and large rocks, to have created such awe-inspiring sculptures that are able to move while standing still. Bravo.
This massive exhibit is on display through November 26 at Gagosian Gallery, 555 West 24th Street.