Iron aged

Trump Tower trees

So much of modern urban coolness seems to derive from smooth, reflective surfaces.

Serra installation reactions

A deliberately aged, industrial artifact can draw a crowd.

in the subway

Surrounded by millions of strangers, who wants to risk open vulnerability?

Serra installation

Unless you grew up in the rust belt, surrounded by shuttered factories, I guess you’d have no particular reason to associate a Richard Serra sculpture with unemployment, drug abuse, and domestic violence.

Rewothctaw

The primary associations would presumably be romantic or nostalgic. It would seem almost rustic, perhaps — a wall in search of a garden, an extension of the earth.

Serra installation guard

Its vulnerability to the elements might connote a kind of innocence. Visitors would be warned against touching the rusty surface, or even (for the indoor portions of the exhibition) snapping photos.

Lichtenstein women

All it takes is a simple frame to turn the innocent ironic.

Richard Serra closeup

But the sculptor wants to provoke “an engagement between the viewer, the site, and the work.” We must do what we would never do with a stranger: take off our sunglasses and meet the iron’s yellow eyes. No irony there.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

11 Comments


  1. Interesting take on the exhibit, Dave. I never quite figured out what the point was. Love the 2nd photo, by the way – ironic modern smirk in the foreground while the ancient in the background sorta rolls in her grave. Also really like the one with the kids. Well, many good pics here.

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  2. How could I have used the word “irony” for all these years without ever noticing the iron-y of it?

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  3. Yes, very interesting, Dave. I like what you say about Serra’s work and how you connect it to the city and its people, and its “search for a garden” or as an “extension of the earth”. I’ve had some trouble liking Serra’s work, though I’ve not seen it in person, but you’ve given me a bit of new insight, thanks. Wish I could have been there.

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  4. Great photos and commentary – especially the sixth photo down.

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  5. wow…original thoughts, great photos!

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  6. Hi all – Thanks for the comments. I’m sorry, I’ve been feeling a little taciturn lately, but I do appreciate everyone who stops by.

    Obviously, my feelings about Serra’s work are mixed, to say the last. I find it kind of sad that someone can spend 40 years of his life making what strikes me as interesting, somewhat fun, but way, way overrated stuff. But I was lucky enough to get several half-decent photos out of the installation, so who am I to complain?

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  7. i too was struck by the rust on the outdoor sculpture at moma, i went back today only to find that the sculpture was being moved and watched it leave the garden. some pictures i took before which i am making into mixed media works, combining photoshop, printmaking with soy-based inks and collage, will emerge. the photos are on my website.

    isn’t the natural process of oxdation artistic??
    linda

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  8. Hi Linda – thanks for stopping by. Serra’s oxidized surfaces do seem ideal for the kind of mixed media work you do. I’m a big fan of such mash-ups, as the cool kids call them. You’re lucky to have witnessed the removal of the installation – that sounds as if it would’ve been worth photographing!

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  9. It would have except no one was allowed into the garden. All viewing was through the windows where the sun’s reflection made picture-taking, at least with my camera, impossible.

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