If You Wake Up To Find The Found Object Murdered, I Know Who Did It.

Richard Serra. In the Broad. With a 600-ton steel plate.
Serra’s always good for a zippy quote, and even though I’ve heard his and Lynne Cooke’s routine before, I figured it’d be worth the trip to hear them speak at LACMA tonight. [Worth the trip from our hotel in downtown LA, that is, not necessarily from NYC.]
Serra’s in town to install a wall drawing in the Broad Museum, and the “post-pop post-surrealist” collection he finds himself surrounded by has apparently been weighing on his mind. And this, a guy who knows from weight.
In 1991 or so, I got a bit too obsessed about an offhand grand unifying theory Serra tossed off at a Cy Twombly panel discussion at MoMA. [It went something like, “the 20th century is based on a misreading of Cezanne.”] When I met Serra a few years later, I mentioned that I’d been wondering what he was talking about; I think I’d hoped to be let in on some kind of secret Art History, but he didn’t remember ever saying it, and had to improvise an explanation anew.
After hearing him speak enough times, I see it’s just a habit of his to constantly try to suggest contexts for him and his work, both for us as viewers and analysts, but also for him as a viewer and student of the work that’s come before–and that’s now hanging or standing around his own.
[Tonight at LACMA, for example, he talked about how “Nauman, Hesse, Smithson, Long, and me” did this or that in response to minimalism, a conveniently historic grouping that elides Serra’s less famous colleagues in the Sixties. You know, what’s his name. Married to, uh. He actually made a reference to “your friend, who married, uh,” and Cooke correctly identified the guy.]
Anyway, as he was a guest of the institution, Serra tried, or at least pretended to try not making pitiless fun at the Duchampian “hand-me-downs” that filled the BCAM–and by implication, the current art market/scene. In the 20th century, you were either Team Malevich or Team Duchamp, and most people went with Duchamp. He said. The last words out of his mouth before the Q&A were a stage-muttered charge, calling for “the death of the found object.”
Just sayin’.