16 January 2015

Richard Serra at Gagosian Gallery

Richard Serra and the Gagosian Gallery were both new to me and it was a fortuitous situation that led to me discovering them.

I had an evening even booked close to work and had planned to work a little late and then walk along to it but the work withered away and so I looked for something else to fill the time.

The place that I looked was the Art Fund iPhone app and I used the Nearby function to find something, er, nearby. And there was Gagosian Gallery just a few hundred meters south of me in Britannia Street. So I packed my bags and off I went.

The gallery was relatively small, just four rooms, and was constructed in the standard form with tall rooms and white everywhere. The lighting helped to blur the boundaries between walls and ceilings by adding its own whiteness; it also played havoc with my camera's automatic focus.

As the announcement in the reception area made clear, there were just four pieces on show; Backdoor Pipeline, Ramble, Dead Load and London Cross. What it did not make clear was that those four pieces would do a fine job of filling the four rooms.

Ramble was a collection of steel slabs arranged in dead straight lines across the room but staggered in the other direction to create interesting spaces to ramble through.

There were 24 blocks in 12 sizes, 2 of each size. The blocks were all 23cm deep with widths varying from 71cm to 144cm and heights varying from 60cm to 72cm. That mixture of sizes produced an effect not unlike the holocaust memorial in Berlin.

Backdoor Pipeline was the oldest piece in the exhibition, it dated from 2010 whereas all the others were from 2014, and was the odd one out. While it was still made of metal it was curved and orange rather than straight and grey.

The two halves curved vertically to meet at the top and horizontally to hide one end of the halfpipe from the other. It was another piece that you could walk through and everybody did. I walked through it twice, once in each direction.

London Cross was my favourite piece. It was made for the room it filled with the two sheets running from corner to corner bisecting the room twice. The lower piece blocked passage across the room but there were two doors into it so it could be seen on both sides.

What made the piece for me was the way that it sat in the room so that the room itself, its two doors and the things beyond them were as much a part of the piece as the metalwork was.

Dead Load took a different approach and tried to look as small as it could by occupying the centre of a big room. It may not look it here but it was taller than me.

The neat trick here was how the slightly larger top piece seemed to hover over the base. I was not the only person who crouched down to try and see how that mystery was solved.

There were just the four rooms and these four pieces but they managed to captivate me for some time. I visited each room at least twice and walked all around all of them looking at the works from various angles. That is the difference between simple objects and art.

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