Richard Serra & Robert Smithson

Robert Smithson and Richard Serra fixing the soon-to-be-Spiral Jetty, 1970.
photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni

I’ll have more to post about Richard Serra in a bit; he was a foundational artist for my world, and I wish his people peace.

In the mean time, nothing quite shook my little art world like finding Kathleen Merrill Campagnolo’s article, “Spiral Jetty through the Camera’s Eye,” in 2010 in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Journal. [Which I see has been subsumed by Chicago and Jstored.] That’s where I first saw this Gorgoni photo of Serra at Rozel Point with Robert Smithson, trying to fix the jetty he’d just built in the Great Salt Lake.

Previously, very much related: The Not-So-Spiral Jetty

To Snuggle, To Lift

Lenore Tawney, Cloud Garment and Ear Pillow, both 1982, exhibited in 2018 at the Fabric Museum & Workshop, image:

Yesterday art historian Andrew Wasserman posted an extraordinary work by Lenore Tawney. Cloud Garment was made in 1982 during an artist residency at the Fabric Museum & Workshop. According to the artist’s foundation website, Cloud Garment is “a conceptual piece that evokes the feeling of wrapping oneself in a cloud.” An archival photo of Tawney wrapped in Cloud Garment shows that what here appears as a bottom edge has fabric printed with musical notation, like Ear Pillow, on the left.

Richard Serra, To Lift, 1967, 36 x 80 x 60 in., vulcanized rubber, collection: Glenstone

The form here reminds me of one of the most perfect Richard Serra sculptures, To Lift, made in 1967 of a sheet of vulcanized rubber. Which is now more perfect by the associations the Tawney piece introduces. The mind suddenly reels.

Glenstone In May 2023

Spider web on Richard Serra’s Sylvester at Glenstone, May 2023

We went to Glenstone to see the Ellsworth Kelly exhibition last week, which is wonderful. The show is an overwhelming physical experience the likes of which I don’t recall having with Kelly’s work, even at the Guggenheim. So that’s interesting. The loans were tremendous; the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s roomful of later paintings makes sense, as they’re taking the show. It also felt interesting that some major collectors of Kelly’s work weren’t involved. It didn’t diminish the show, though.

There were spiderwebs on the torqued ellipse, both across the sunnier surfaces inside, where they were like glitter, and also in a few of the gaps up high. The Koons was still unplanted, I guess I’m glad they didn’t feel the need to rush it for the Kelly opening.

EK 808 for Glenstone, a reinstallation of Kelly’s 1990 floor work for Portikus, ganked from the studio’s instagram

The floor work was incredible. After all this, I didn’t realize it was considered by the artist to be a new work, not just a reinstallation of the original 1990 piece at Portikus. It felt like a Turrell, or a Doug Wheeler. There’s something extraordinary, though, about the Rales’s capacity to recreate an architectural space of a specific, historic dimension, to accommodate an artist’s work. It’s here with the Gober room, and with the Kelly. In the Kelly’s case, there is also a fascinating vitrine outside with documentation of the work, and Kelly’s involvement in realizing it at Glenstone, including the specs for the support and the recipe for the color. Let a thousand bootleg Kelly floor pieces bloom.

Officially a Yellow Curved Cookie, and hibiscus lemonade

We took these cookies home to plant them, in hopes that they’ll grow to fill the room. Stay tuned.

Ellsworth Kelly’s Color Panels for A Large Wall II (1978), viewed across the pond, from the entrance to the Twombly sculpture Brice Marden gallery

I was sure that the smaller Color Panels for a Large Wall, Kelly made for himself, which were at Marks in 2019, was in Glenstone’s collection, but it doesn’t show up on the list rn. It is so great up close. So here is a picture of it from far away.

I was going to write about how the only problem with the Kelly show was the difficulty of getting reservations to see it again, but then I checked, and there was an opening today, so I rearranged my schedule, and am heading back.

A few hours later update: The way the Glenstone pieces are grouped together is interesting, like concentrated emphases on Kelly’s practice. It feels more seriously engaged than, say, the Vuitton Fondation buying four works from a late show.

The loans, meanwhile, are mostly from museums and private collections arranged by Matthew Marks. It reminded me of Emily Rales’ conversation with Charlotte Burns last month on The Art World: What if…? podcast, where Rales talked about being a little surprised that Glenstone agreeing to almost every loan request was definitely not standard exhibition procedure. I pictured an inordinate amount of goodwill, more fungible than the niceties of donor development museums are prone to.

For that matter, Rales also talked about Glenstone eventually building a board, and thinking through the question of what a board looks like that is not beholden to fundraising. Though they are surely respectful and perhaps even friendly—as well as competitive—toward other collectors, Glenstone is not beholden to them. And Glenstone’s relationship with other collectors will not necessarily follow the paradigms other museums have created.

Ellsworth Kelly, Yellow Curve, Portikus, 1990, offset print poster, via Susan Sheehan Gallery

And for that other matter, taking more time to study the documents for Kelly’s Portikus floor work felt of a piece. Portikus’ Yellow Curve and the other floor panels were all created in relation to a specific, existing space. When Glenstone acquired their Kelly, in 2015, they created a space in their original Charles Gwathmey building [now called The Gallery], to fit the Portikus work. And then Kelly made it [again.] That realization, during the construction of the new building, was never publicly shown, just an extraordinary treat for the collectors, made possible by an extraordinary deference to the artist.

Previously, related, from 2022: Ellsworth Kelly, Red Floor Panel (1992)

More On Richard Serra’s First Show

The other day while gooftweeting some highlights of the real estate slideshow for Villa Aurora – still available, now 20% off! – I made a joke, entirely for an audience of one, about Richard Serra’s first show, which took place in Rome in 1966, while he was traveling on a Fulbright with his then-wife and fellow Yale sculpture MFA Nancy Graves. Titled, “Animal Habitats: Live and Stuffed,” the show delivered exactly what it promised: live and taxidermy animals inside various crates, cages, and other “habitats.”

photo of Richard Serra and the pig in Live Pig Cage I, 1966, from the Time Magazine article on his show at Galleria La Salita in Rome

Though it got covered in Time magazine, and Serra would later neg the show while claiming credit for inadvertently launching Arte Povera, in the ten years since I first/last blogged about it, I’ve never seen any other mention of the show, or discussion of the work. And none of it survived, I wrote back then, even in reproduction.

But it turns out I was wrong. A picture of photocopy of a picture of a work arrived from Rome. In the 1980s a group of Serra works from “Animal Habitats” were put up for auction in Italy by Tomaso Gian Liverani, the owner of Galleria La Salita, where Serra showed. It’s not clear what they were or where they went. But in 1987, Emanuela Oddi Baglioni, another Roman dealer, was offering a group for sale. Was it the same group, or part of it? Where there others? Oddi Baglioni’s gallery was across the via Gregoriana from la Salita, but it only moved there in 1967. Did she buy them at auction from her neighbor? Or did they not sell? Are there more? They survived 20 years, though! What happened after that? Did someone buy them?

Anyway, the work, which may have been in Liverani’s group, Oddi Baglioni’s group, both, or neither, is above. The scale of the piece is not clear, but there is a long-beaked bird [taxidermied, I’d hope] sticking out of an urn?, with a thick sheaf of weeds? underneath it, on a [readymade?] metal stand? a plant stand? And the title of the piece is HAIR ON OR AFTER GASM ONE, to Barney Newman.

OK. Thank you? I do not know what to do with this information. Which, now I think I know how Barney Newman felt?

Days End Shoe Tree, 2021

David Hammons, Days End, 2021, awaiting shoes, image:

If it’s really going to exist, what this new David Hammons sculpture needs is some old David Hammons. Let’s start by throwing 25 pairs of sneakers over the 8-inch steel beams, and then we can assess.

David Hammons’ Shoe Tree, 1981, on Richard Serra’s T.W.U., 1980, image: probably Dawoud Bey

Previously, related: Stop and Piss: David Hammons’ Pissed Off

Tilted Arc Defense Fund Rug by Boot Boyz Biz

While we’re on the subject of writing quickly on matters of significant art that happened in the part about which I had absolutely no idea, please direct your attention to the Boot Boyz Biz, an anonymous bootlegging collective which has, since 2015, been publishing major art and design content, primarily in the medium of deeply researched and highly synthesized, extremely limited edition t-shirts. Which is the only reason, besides my willful neglect of the instagram platform, that I can come up with for my sleeping so hard and so long on them.

Anyway, the t-shirt drops are somehow surpassed only by the non-t-shirt drops, two of which I will highlight here:

One: last summer the Boot Boyz made a Tilted Arc Defense Fund tufted wool rug. I might say it’s more of a mat, but what matters is, it exists at all, unlike the Richard Serra sculpture it evokes, obv. It captures the view from the haters’ offices down to the plaza below, in tufted wool, tastefully tinted to evoke the fundraising poster that Serra and Friends put out.

For the 7 billion-plus of us who did not cop the rug, the sidebar of historical and theoretical research will have to suffice.

Tilted Arc Rug [, thanks @stottleplex!]

Hammons All Around Us

photo of an unnamed work David Hammons provided to The New York Times

“Sometimes I put clothes on the sculptures,” is how David Hammons revealed a previously unpublic intervention to Public Art Fund curator Daniel S. Palmer, who in turn has revealed it to us in The New York Times T Magazine.

For five or so winters, beginning around 2007, Hammons wrapped warmer clothing around a 19th century statue in Brooklyn of a formerly enslaved woman standing at the feet of a sculpture of a much more warmly dressed white abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher.

At least, that’s the photo we see, of the action we know. “I put clothes on the sculptureS.” Where are the others?

Remember, this is Hammons’ M.O. He only publicly showed his iconic Pissed Off nine years after he’d urinated on that Richard Serra sculpture. And of course, it’s iconic because Dawoud Bey photographed it.

How long will it take for us to get it through our heads that we are surrounded by David Hammons’ artworks we don’t even know about, and may only find out about years later, if we’re lucky?

Unless we can scan back through Instagram–2007? We need to look at flickr!–to see if anyone happened upon Hammons’ sculptural caregiving while walking the dog, and happened to take a picture. Some day maybe an algorithm will unearth unseen Hammonses from our global photographic record, like LIDAR mapping ancient cities in the jungle. But for now, we don’t even know who took the one photo we have.

[cf. putting little hats on Jizō in Japan]

A poignant take on the controversy surrounding public monuments [nyt]
Previously, very much related, 2018: Pissed Off: Can you hold it?
2013: Stop and Piss: David Hammons’ Pissed Off

The Political Prints Of Richard Serra

Fake President, 2017, stamp and silkscreen on paper, 24×18″, $2000, ed. 250, published by Gemini GEL, at one point to benefit People for the American Way, though the Gemini site doesn’t mention that. PFAW’s website has them available, along with a Ruscha.

Richard Serra makes a lot of prints, and a lot of them are published as polit..ical fundraisers. They are collected here, mostly from Serra’s Gemini GEL page, where a lot of them are still available, even long after their specific election has passed.

[Caption ganked along with photo] NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 25: “Fake President” art work by Richard Serra the People For The American Way Event For Election 2018 on October 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for People for the American Way)

The most recent, published in October 2018, is the most atypical. Fake President commemorates Norman Lear’s 95th birthday, and was one of several works created to raise money for the People For the American Way, which Lear founded. The reflection in the Getty Images pic from the drop party–just two weeks before the election, so riding the wave, not making it, I guess–looks like a bronze plaque, or at least metallic foil, which would be weird and awesome. The force behind these prints, often part of portfolios, is Gemini G.E.L., which I assume means Sidney Felsen.

Continue reading “The Political Prints Of Richard Serra”

To Flop Next To The Pool

The Emily Tremaine Papers are digitized at the Archives of American Art, and for an art history nerd on lockdown, it is a welcome diversion.

There’s so much in there, but here is one forgotten disaster–which I actually found last year, in the Leo Castelli archive, while researching Castelli’s first Johns show. It was the Summer of ’69. June. Stonewall Rebellion. Ted Cruz’s father on a murderspree. The Apollo 11 moon landing. Charles Manson & co. on a murderspree.

Meanwhile, in early August, at the Tremaine’s house in Connecticut:

Dear Leo,

We’re glad you are back–we are having problems!

Problem No. 1. The Serra does not seem to be the right proportion for the wall. I am enclosing some snapshots, compare these with the picture on page 40 of the February 1969 ART FORUM. Ours seems to start too high and come down too low. Something seems wrong; but worse that the proportion, it keeps flopping over (see on one of the enclosed photos). It won’t stay straight for more than a few hours. Unless this can be corrected, it is impossible.

[Problem No. 2 left out here, but it was the encaustic on Jasper Johns’ Tango constantly lifting off the canvas.]

Maybe you and Toni could drive up one day for lunch and a swim and we can get your advice on the Serra.

Burton and Emily Tremaine

Richard Serra’s Prop, 1968, as seen on p. 40 of Artforum, Feb. 1969

The Tremaines had barely taken delivery on their Serra, Prop, 1968, which was an edition of 6, $1,200, less 10% discount, paid on June 20th. It was installed, not indoors as in the Robert Morris-curated “9 in a Warehouse” show Max Kozloff reviewed in that Artforum, but outdoors. Against a dry-stone retaining wall, and on the slate terrace of the pool. The Castelli archive has the snapshots, and it sure did flop over. The reference image I snapped last year, though, has a huge reflection from the overhead light, so it’s useless here. [update: I am not alone in admiring the Tremaine’s flopped Serra; thanks to an intrepid reader who dug this out.]

a 1969 snapshot from the pool deck of the Tremaines, where their new Richard Serra sculpture will not stop flopping over
To Flop, To Be Impossible, photo: Mr. or Mrs. Burton Tremaine

It may be a little different from the prototype Serra made in Germany, but it is also clearly the same proportions as the edition from the Warehouse show [above]: a 60×60-inch lead antimony sheet held up by an 8′ lead roll. But the precarity is definitely part of the piece. Here’s Serra talking about it at MoMA:

At one point In the 60s, I had written down a series of verbs, and was just enacting these verbs. And one of the verbs was “to roll.” And I found myself rolling either a single roll or a double roll or a triple roll. And then we had pieces of lead that were remnants we had cut off a sheet.

And I thought, ‘what if I took a flat sheet of lead, and tried to hold it against the wall by the force of a rolled pole. Would it hold? I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

So we hoisted the flat plate up, and then we lowered the pole against the plate, and low and behold, it held. And that piece enabled me to think about the possibility of doing other pieces against the wall.

Richard Serra, Verblist, 1967-68, gift of the artist to MoMA in honor of Wynn Kramarsky (who made the ask)

I just checked, and not only is to flop not on Verblist, 1967-68, 24 things on the list aren’t even verbs. Also, I never noticed that though they’re not technically all transitive verbs, they really are actions for the sculptor, not the sculpture. Which seems very on brand. [few minutes later update: duh, in 1980 Serra told Bernard Lamarche-Vadel that his list was all transitive verbs.]

And who even knew? If I hadn’t taken a wonky bootleg picture, I would have just posted, “LOL Floppy Serra,” and called it a day.

Missing Wynn Kramarsky

I met Wynn Kramarsky on the internet almost exactly 25 years ago to the day. It turned out not to have been my first encounter with him, but I’ll get to that. We met on Usenet, a global, distributed message board/listserv that was organized by topic, sort of like how reddit is now. It was August 1994, and I had just reported to about my visit to Spiral Jetty. Wynn commented enthusiastically and wanted to know more–Spiral Jetty had only emerged from the Great Salt Lake a few months earlier, and was visible for the first time in decades [sic. By analyzing lake levels I’ve since concluded it was visible for a year or two in the 1980s, but it seems no one looked/reported/cared.] We emailed. He offered to send me a catalogue from a recent Smithson exhibition at Columbia, what was my address? On the internet of 1994, it seemed wilder to me to give a stranger a catalogue than to give a stranger your address. It was only when the book arrived with a note and his card that I realized Wynn was lending it to me. I could bring it back on one of my trips to New York (I was at business school in Philadelphia), and we’d go to lunch.

And that’s what we did, a couple of months later. We met at his office in SoHo, the entrance of which was lined with thousands of books. That first visit, an extraordinary Richard Serra work, multiple sheets of paper with ink applied in large slabs with a roller, filled the first open wall. The internet has been failing to surpass itself ever since.

After we’d toured both floors of his SoHo space and had a sandwich with his staff, we went into his office. Behind his desk was a drawing Robert Smithson had made on a large, aerial photo of the Kennecott Copper Mine. I knew it because I had bid on it the year before, when it had come up for auction at Sotheby’s. I had just quit my job and was preparing to go to grad school, and I really had no business bidding, even during a recession. But I really wanted it, and so I made a couple of bids for it before giving it up to the winning bidder. I apologized for running up the price on him, and then I thanked him for not bankrupting me.

Wynn and I became art correspondents, and we’d meet of the years while he was actively putting on shows. He was as infectiously passionate about the work of young and emerging artists as he was about the people he’d known and collected for decades. At his encouragement, I met artists and visited studios I never would have thought to reach out to otherwise. He made me want to be a better, more thoughtful collector by being a curious and engaged counterpart for artists, not just a consumer.

We both got more actively involved in supporting MoMA around the same time–on obviously different levels–and he was always generous with advice and insights. He took collecting and donating seriously, and was always cognizant of a responsibility to artists and to society. I still feel the impact of his incisive observations of socialites, unserious collectors, or museum groupies angling for respectability on my own views of how the art world should or could work. When a committee meeting I was running at MoMA got derailed one night by some tedious presentation, I immediately felt the weight of Wynn’s story about the flaky chair of a museum board he’d been on: “She wrote a check, but she sure couldn’t run a meeting!”

When I began writing, especially for the Times, and later on topics like early Jasper Johns, the Jetty, or Tilted Arc, Wynn’s was always a voice I sought out and trusted, and he always spoke very candidly. I always got the sense he didn’t want to be quoted, though, and so I never did. I also always got the sense that he operated out of a profound respect for the artists he knew, and for their work. It felt like artists trusted him, and that he cherished that. I miss Wynn and mourn for the loss his friends and family are experiencing, but I’m grateful for the chance to know him, and for all he did and showed and taught.


Pissed Off: Can You Hold It?

c.1990 Xerox poster for the Exit Art exhibition of David Hammons’ 1981 performance, Pissed Off. image NYU Fales Library Exit Art Archive via SAAM

I have been interested in David Hammons’ performance/interventions staged at Richard Serra’s T.W.U. for a while, so I made a point to listen to Columbia and Smithsonian American Art Museum pre-doctoral fellow Abbe Schriber’s presentation at SAAM yesterday.


Titled, “Word on the Street: David Hammons’s Negotiation of Rumor, ca. 1981”, Schriber spoke of Hammons’ “strategy of obscurity” and the careful ambiguities around the two projects, Pissed Off, and Shoe Tree, in which, respectively, the artist pissed on and threw sneakers over a three-plate Serra prop piece installed on a Tribeca traffic island at the intersection of Sixth Avenue & Franklin Street.


What I did not realize, is that Hammons sat on these works without announcing or showing them for nine years. The work was first shown publicly in the 1990 Exit Art exhibition, “Illegal America.”
Whether it’s the myopia of the blogger and tweeter compelled to feed the content beast, or the tyranny of the new, it’s hard to imagine maintaining this kind of years-long silence about a work today.  But that could also be the perplexity of hindsight. Maybe Hammons didn’t show Pissed Off because no one wanted to see it. Or he didn’t have the right context for it.
Which made me wonder again. Hammons’ Pissed Off was included in Exit Art’s 1990 show “Illegal America.” [Was the Xeroxed “poster” above, in the Exit Art archive at NYU, what was included in the exhibit? Was anything else?] But the 1990 show was a restaging of a February 1982 show of the same name. “Illegal America” was the first show Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo staged as Exit Art, and they did it at Franklin Furnace, which was located half a block from the site of Serra’s–and Hammons’–works. You could see Serra’s work from Franklin Furnace’s front door.
At SAAM, Schriber discussed Hammons’ interactions with JAM, an alternative space for emerging African American artists which had moved a couple of blocks west of Franklin Furnace, but she did not mention this earlier incarnation of “Illegal America.” 26 of the 36 artists in the 1990 show had also been in the 1982. Hammons was not among them. Was he going to be? Was he not?

Richard Serra, T.W.U., 1980-81, installed in Tribeca, image via

It does seem like quite a coincidence that Hammons created two works involving the racialized and bodily precarity associated with illegal actions within pissing distance of the projected site of a show about artists working in the medium of illegality itself.
Could it be? “Illegal America” opened in February 1982, and included The Real Estate Show, which had taken place in 1980. Pissed Off happened sometime in 1981, but T.W.U. was only installed until July 30th, 1981, so that gives some parameters. Would Hammons have visited Franklin Furnace before, during or after Pissed Off? Would they have known of his work? Were they interested? Or not? If Hammons was going to be in, he wasn’t. If he wanted to be in, he wasn’t. Did something go down?
Would the Exit Art folks or Franklin Furnace have known in 1982 about the subject of Hammons’ artist statement for the 1990 show, which Schriber presented, and which I had never heard of?
“Pissed Off” is about the fact that in New York City a man doesn’t have any public access to relieve himself in a decent manner. There is no way for a gentleman to relieve himself in a gentlemanly manner without having to buy a drink.
Keep the rage going.
What started Hammons’ rage? Sure, a city and a system that denied the needs of its citizens on the most basic, bodily level, and putting a gentleman at risk of police intervention for the most basic necessities, but was there anything else?
Can you imagine Hammons and Bey the morning of Pissed Off, one of them with a camera, and at least one of them dressed in a dashiki that, as Schriber put it, gave him “the look of a city forager.”  What if they visited Franklin Furnace that morning? To drop off some slides? To talk about a show? Have a chat? Just to look around? What if they said they were there for a meeting? What if they asked to use the men’s room? Can you imagine what could have happened?
Hammons’ nine year wait seems short, and also way too long. And I don’t think he’s done.

Richard Serra Copped Circles

Google Street View image of an AWSS cistern at 14th & Castro, via 99pi
After water systems broke down during aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco created the Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS). It includes over 170 giant cisterns beneath streets all over town. Large circles of bricks set into the street mark the outlines of the cisterns, hinting at hidden systems. In the words of 99 Percent Invisible’s Kurt Kohlstedt, the circles are a “surface expression of something much larger below.”
To Encircle Base Plate Hexagram, Right Angles Inverted, 1970
Richard Serra grew up in San Francisco. His first public sculpture was a pair of 26-foot diameter arcs of L-shaped steel, like a manhole collar, set into the middle of a soon-to-be-razed-and-redeveloped block of 183rd Street in the Bronx. One arc pointed up, the other down. To Encircle Base Plate Hexagram, Right Angles Inverted (1970) was included in the Whitney Annual, though Serra complained that no one in the art world went to see it. It was later purchased and given to the St Louis Museum. It’s installed in their driveway.
I’m sure Serra would say there is absolutely no relationship between these two structures. But they’re there in the street nonetheless.
Decoding Rings: Beneath the Mysterious Brick Circles on San Francisco Streets []
Hunting for a Richard Serra sculpture in the Bronx [16miles]

On Schwendener On Richard Serra & Public Art

I’m pleased to see some actual critical response to Richard Serra’s sculptures, and Martha Schwendener is more right than wrong in her review of Serra’s latest shows at Gagosian. But this retelling of the Tilted Arc controversy is based on several faulty premises that are amply documented and refuted in the written record of the case.

It’s hard to approach Mr. Serra’s sculptures without some kind of baggage. There is, of course, the unfortunate 1989 “Tilted Arc” episode, in which that commissioned sculpture by Mr. Serra was removed from Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan after complaints from neighbors and workers that it impinged on their use of Foley Square. In the aftermath of that fiasco, rather than fighting for the rights of artists creating public sculpture, Mr. Serra’s response was to make abstract drawings with puerile titles like “The United States Government Destroys Art” and “No Mandatory Patriotism,” both from 1989.
When exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011, these drawings seemed only to iterate Mr. Serra’s myopic misunderstanding of art in the public realm. As the art historian Leo Steinberg put it, the space of Federal Plaza was Serra’s “raw material, but there are a thousand people working there, so this is not raw material but the space of their existence.”

The campaign against Tilted Arc was started by a judge in the building, and it became an ascendant conservative rally that pulled in the likes of Rudy Giuliani. Public opinion, even the opinion of the workers in the Federal Building was not opposed to the sculpture. The commission assembled to judge the work’s fate was stacked, and its recommendations went against the evidence it assembled.
What I bristle against most, I suppose, is Schwendener’s idea that Serra did not “fight for the rights of artists creating public sculpture.” That is exactly what he did when he sued the GSA to stop the removal of the work, and to declare it destroyed when it was removed. In the legal context of the time, this was, unfortunately, the most that could be done.

Of all artists, Serra has pushed the hardest for the primacy and autonomy of the artist’s vision. His take-it-or-leave-it stand is certainly annoying and abrasive to some people, but it is principled, and it is at the core of his practice, and apparently, his personality. He’s not a collaborative guy. He’s not a compromiser. He compared Robert Venturi’s plan for Pennsylvania Avenue to the Nazis. He walked out on Helmut Kohl and removed his name from the Berlin Holocaust Memorial rather than take the chancellor’s suggestions. [Schwendener mentions the memorial in her review, but ignores Serra’s involvement.] He apparently walked out on Steve Ratner when asked to pitch for a Hudson Yards public art project.

It may very well be the case that Serra is unsuited for public art and the political rigamarole that it requires. But he wasn’t poisoning the well so much as pissing on a reactionary fire that had already been lit during the Reagan Era. If such non-accommodationism is damaging to artists’ prospects for making public art, then maybe we should consider the processes by which public art comes to be. Maybe the gargantuan spatial spectacles Serra produces now really are optimized for private consumption, the single decisionmaker, the big checkwriter. But whatever Serra’s faults, the public art ecosystem in the US has rarely produced works that command such a spirited defense as Tilted Arc received back in the day.

On those “Revenge Drawings”: Richard Serra was not pleased with the US Government
Serra interview from 1982: And I AM. An American Sculptor.
You really should have The Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents, the 1990 compendium of material from the case [amazon]

OPCW Verb List

Richard Serra, Verb List, 1967-68, image:
When the US’s demand to destroy all of Syria’s chemical weapons was first being discussed in September, I heard a report on NPR about the Office for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and how they went about their mission. It struck me as an almost sculptural process, a cross between Paul Shabroom, a Matthew Barney gallery installation, and Richard Serra’s Verb List.
5 March 2007
Now that the OPCW is on the ground, has won the Nobel Peace Prize, and is completing their inspections and such, I thought I’d pull together some news accounts of these CW destruction techniques for reference. When I get a bit more time, I’ll try digging through the OPCW’s site for official protocols and such. At some point, like Jeremy Deller’s bombed out car from Iraq, I guess this stuff should be exhibited.
A slightly facile FAQ-style AP article, Chemical Arms Inspectors Gird For Risky, Dirty Job” []:

Inspectors can use any means they deem necessary to render equipment inoperable, including techniques that are crude but effective. Options include: taking sledgehammers to control panels; driving tanks over empty vats or filling them with concrete; or running mixing machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.

From the Washington Post, same day Chemical weapons officials say coordination with Syrian government has been ‘efficient'”:

He said OPCW officials charged with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons production capabilities by Nov. 1 will use “expedient methods” to fulfill their task.
“It might be a case of smashing something up with a sledgehammer. It might be a case of smashing something up with some explosive. It might be a case of driving a tank over something,” he said, or filling vessels with concrete, ruining valves and running bearings without oil so that they get stuck.
That won’t take long or cost much money, he said, but disposing of the chemicals themselves “is going to cost a lot.”

From a McClatchy report on Sept. 30, “Experts optimistic Nov. 1 deadline can be met for ending Syria’s chemical threat” []:

Once combined, the chemicals result in a mixture that is unstable and dangerous to handle. But before they are mixed, the chemicals generally are far less dangerous.
The equipment needed to mix those chemicals is easily destroyed, said Ralf Trapp, a chemical threat consultant who was among the original staffers who set up the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “You can drills holes, cut pipes and flanges, remove wiring, crush computer boards, fill tanks with concrete,” he noted.
Disposal of the separated chemicals also is relatively easy, he said. One, an alcohol, “can simply be poured out onto the desert to evaporate without any risk,” he said.

A quick search has not yet turned up any photos or documentation of these practices, b

Art & Technology & Serra & Steel Mills

Visitor posted this comment from Richard Serra’s 1974 interview with Liza Bear, quoting his own statement from the catalogue for Maurice Tuchman’s 1970 show at LACMA, Art and Technology, about technology being “a form of toolmaking, body extension.” Also, “Technology is what we do to the Black Panthers and the Vietnamese.”

He goes on to say that “It reflects my political responsibility to the public–not that I have any idealistic notions of swaying the masses through television. I think commercial TV is basically show business, and that means show business is used to reflect corporate America’s interests.”
Of course, one of the criticisms leveled at Art & Technology was that it was using art to reflect those same corporate interests. Tuchman arranged for 64 men of the art and industry to pair up to produce artworks, which would be exhibited at the Museum, and also the US Pavilion at the Osaka 70 World’s Fair. The results were mixed at best.
Roy Lichtenstein worked with Paramount to make 35mm painting/film installations. Warhol made some wacky lenticular rain machine. Rauschenberg made a bubbling pool of lubricating mud. Tony Smith tried to make a cave from thousands of cardboard tetrahedrons. And all of it went down when opposition to the Vietnam war and Nixon and the Establishment were hitting new nadirs every day. If the show was meant to heal, bridge, transcend, or even paper over the cultural chasms between art and the American corporate machine, it has to be considered a failure.
And yet, somehow I hadn’t noticed this, and I can’t remember ever hearing it discussed, the work Richard Serra made for Art and Technology seems like some of the most crucial of his career. I’ll look again, but in terms of the artists’ own practice, I think Serra made what turns out to have been the most important art in the show.
Serra was, remarkably, the seventh artist Tuchman tried to match with Kaiser Steel Corp’s Fontana mill. [Among the first six attempted matches: Smithson and di Suvero, which, sure, but also Jules Olitski and Len Lye, which, what?] He proposed work that would “be related to both the physical properties of the site and the characteristics of the materials and processes concomitant to it.”
The three “categories” he envisioned were, casting, overlaying/stacking, and constructions.
And that’s just what he did. Serra worked nights with the crew assigned to him to get a feel for steel in its different forms, for the site, and for the processes available to manipulate the material. After several weeks working in the skullcracker yard, where scrap steel was moved around with a giant magnetic crane for reprocessing, he used the machinery to execute 12 different constructions [or 20, depending] within two intense, final weeks. “The procedure would be to erect a piece, and, if he considered it successful, to have it recorded photographically when possible. The structure was then dismantled.”
Stacked Steels Slabs (Skullcracker Series), 1969, constructed at Kaiser Steel, Fontana, CA
The first of these pieces is probably the best-known, a leaning stack of sixteen 6-ton slabs of cast steel known as stools, the photo of which has circulated under the name, Stacked Steels Slabs (Skullcracker Series). These Skullcracker Series works became more structurally complex; Serra created loose piles of steel scrap, then propped large slabs against or on top of them.
He made counter-balanced structures with plates jutting out in various directions. They remind me a bit of the block towers architect Eliot Noyes made to demonstrate balance in a 1955 educational film. I’m sure, of course, they were completely different.
After a second, less successful stay in 1970, Serra agreed to return in the Spring of 1971 for the actual LACMA show. He would erect a Skullcracker Series at the museum, and also install “a piece related to his more recent thinking; the idea derived directly from what he had learned about steel at Kaiser.”
His idea was to measure a site and install a steel plate, which would be cut along the edge of the ground, thereby taking the contour of the topography into which it had been installed.
Though the cutting is, I think, unique, a form of drawing, this creation of sculpture that marks the contours of a site is immediately, obviously recognizable as central to Serra’s work at the time. He was doing it at that exact moment in St. Louis with Pulitzer Piece, and in Ontario with Shift. And he says that it all came “directly from what he had learned about steel at Kaiser.” [Those links are both to Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes, who’s written one of the very few art-aware accounts of actually visiting Shift.]
Serra’s steel mill-based practice is something else that, in the intervening decades, has become central to Serra’s work. In interviews, it’s usually explained by biography, by early factory jobs in college. But those jobs didn’t get a mention in Tuchman’s Art & Technology catalogue, and Tuchman’s complicated show rarely gets credited for arranging the corporate collaboration at Kaiser Steel that gave Serra his first studio in a steel mill.
Previously, related: Stop & Piss: David Hammons’ Pissed Off