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New York Awards 2002

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Richard Serra, Art

Once upon a time, there existed a consensus on what modernism was. It was form. Or rather, those examples of painting, sculpture, and architecture that inverted the old idea that form served content, and insisted instead that form was content. Comparatively few artists believe this now, but one who does is Richard Serra. In his case, form is not the perfection of some preconceived ideal but a result of the decisive physical manipulation of materials. The “figure” so many people claim they miss in Serra’s abstract sculpture is the viewer; the human form they struggle to find is their own presence. Thus intending to reveal them to themselves, Serra has, over the years, confronted the public with huge propped panels and elegantly curved but utterly opaque rusted walls. Lately, by contrast, he has embraced viewers in towering corridors and sweeping spirals that majestically make room for reflection in the tumult of the city. But whether Serra’s sculptural gesture is challenging or welcoming, his work uncompromisingly affirms the principle that form speaks. He is our master space-carver. -- ROBERT STORR


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