Saturday, July 7, 2007

art: upcoming religious pilgrimage to Serra

Richard Serra at MOMA, can't say no. I saw experienced his work at Dia:Beacon, first a room with a boat-like presence packed into it, and then the former train dock with three giant torus shapes. It's just you in a room with some heavy-duty steel plate, but it's intense, primal, serious joy."Union of the Torus and Sphere" Richard Serra sculpture, picture by diana saragosa
©2005 diana saragosa, used without permission (I tried to contact her!)

That boat hull (Union of the Torus and Sphere, article) was the most intense marriage of art-in-space I've had the fortune to feel, along with Damien Hirst's dual sectioned cows in vitrines spread diagonally across a room (Some Comfort Gained from the Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in Everything) at the Sensation show. (And any encounter with a Rothko, gazing into a canvas the size of a man, suffused with pure emotion.)

I already know what it'll be like. Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker describes what I will feel better than I can.
At the same time, the work is poignant with reminiscences of the two centuries past. As an affair of big, rusty things without practical use, it evokes derelict ships, locomotives, and heavy-industrial factories. It also recalls times when miracles of human invention were still spectacular, like the Brooklyn Bridge, rather than spectral, like the Internet. More generally, Serra conserves a battered modernist confidence in the collective genius of experts, a priestly class that confers meaning and direction on society. Hardheaded secular culture can make no greater claim to spiritual efficacy than it does in this show, appropriately housed in the high church of the twentieth century that is MOMA. The measure is the childlike feeling which the work rewards, a sense that the world’s order and progress are being seen to by sensationally competent adults.



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