"Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective," Apr. 13-Aug. 28, 2011, turns the Metropolitan Museum of Art into a living, breathing space for contemporary art, for the first time. It's a momentous event, if only because the museum seems determined to play a role in today's global art scene, and so it better figure out how to properly present the stuff.
Serra is our most powerful formalist, as everyone knows, and at the Met press walk-through he linked his drawings to notions of space, the body, architecture, movement, and the weight of emotion, or its ephemerality.
The almost baroque forms and shapes of his massive steel sculptures, not to say their lyrical color, are banished in the huge oilstick drawings that make up most of the show at the Met. Flat, deep, black and geometric, these elemental things, done on a monumental scale (some made on canvas stapled to the wall), easily command their galleries. They represent a remarkable example of an artist taking the museum space and turning it to his own esthetic ends.
The exhibition also includes four films made by Serra in 1968: Hand Catching Lead, Hand Lead Fulcrum, Hands Scraping and Hands Tied.
The show's 176-page catalogue includes essays by the three curators -- Bernice Rose of the Menil Drawing Institute, Michelle White of the Menil Collection, and Garry Garrels of the San Francisco MOMA -- as well as by Magdalena Dabrowski, who coordinated the New York installation, plus U. of Texas Austin scholar Richard Shiff and Los Angeles filmmaker Lizzie Borden. It is published by Yale University Press ($50 hardcover).
After its premiere at the Met, "Richard Serra Drawing" appears at the San Francisco MOM, Oct. 15, 2011-Jan. 16, 2012, and ends its tour at its organizing institution, the Menil, Mar. 2-June 10, 2012.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.