One of the historical constants of sculpture lies in resolving the problem of inert matter. Another issue arises from G. E. Lessing’s answer to the question, What is sculpture?: “An art which has to do with the displacement of the body in space.” Richard Serra’s work answers the question and feeds permanently on the reply. He also has two fundamental provisos: the place and the context where his pieces are placed and experienced. As he says, space is a material for him and places engender thoughts. Both Pasolini and Counter-Clockwise Pentagon belong to two repeated, central motifs in his work. In it—unlike Robert Ryman’s—there are no metaphors, no narrated story, no representation other than the pure materialness of the sculpture. That is why his work is specifically physical: when we look at his sculptures, “something” happens to us, we are moved by a bodily sensation. Pasolini reflects the opposition between two volumetric elements of the same nature, but of contrasting dimensions. Moreover, in this work the importance Serra gives to weight stands out; it is both a heightening of and a victory over the inert. “For me, weight is a value, not because it is more irresistible than lightness, but simply because I know more about weight than lightness, and therefore I have more to say about it, more to say about the balance of weight, the loss of weight, adding or removing weight, the concentration of weight, the imbalance of weight, the rotation of weight, the movement of weight, the directionality of weight, the form of weight.” There are many contemporary, earlier and later examples of that development in his work, in pieces which, oddly enough, have personal names as titles. Such is the case of Philibert et Marguerite (installed in the French church where the remains of Philibert of Savoy and Marguerite of Austria lie), Elevations for Mies (at Haus Lange and Haus Esters, built by Van der Rohe and now museums) and Two Forged Rounds (For Buster Keaton), a work that denotes his predilection for the names of figures from the cinema, since he has also installed a block dedicated to Charles Chaplin in Berlin. Counter-Clockwise Pentagon represents the delicate balance struck between sheets of steel with a single point of contact, as if they were castles built with playing cards. Serra reveals another part of their meaning in a conversation with the architect Peter Eisenman about a piece related to this one and entitled, as it happens, House of Cards (1969): “I think it is interesting that weight is denied when forces tend to balance out. When each thing is truly in balance, it becomes weightless.” Weight has been a well-developed motif in his work in pieces for interiors, such as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 (1987), and especially the foundation of some of his major city pieces, such as Terminal (1977), Carnegie (1984-85) and Fulcrum (1986-87).
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