What are the machinations and motives involved in exhibiting massive art in a gallery? Last week, Richard Serra’s Equal at Zwirner left me numb. I saw texture, form, weight and line. I walked around and through them. I imagined them as a grid from Google Earth view, or tumbled in a field like Stonehenge or extraterrestrial like that Sphinx on Mars. I tried not to compare them to Serra installations I had seen in person and in photos. I tried to let his Equal be nothing but themselves.
And then I didn’t. I freed myself from this game of forgetting and let it all flood back. Serra’s work at Storm King; Schunnemunk Fork, a bisected hillside or the dominating Torqued Ellipse shown at MoMA in 2007. I thought of earthworks and Heizer’s Levitated Mass. I also thought of a man whose story is often told, but whose name is all but forgotten: Raymond Johnson. Richard Serra’s steel sculpture killed this man in 1971. I don’t hold this death against Serra but I expect it makes the artist aware of what his art can do. All of this and I was numb. Serra’s Equal is stale, dead, lifeless. There was no history, they were blank, empty black mausoleums. Maybe I do hold that death against him?
Now for something completely different, Bruce Conner at Paula Cooper. I think reviewing this show might be like trying to tell someone about how you were a day-glo flying bear in a dream. The feeling is lost. I highly recommend Conner’s great little exhibition. The film, the photos, the early drawings and late collages and a mixed media baby doll head affixed to dark painted board. I can hear Paul McCartney singing “In the light of a dark black night”. They all feel raw, vital. Strange and varied art, that seem to have almost nothing to do with each other, rub elbows. And it all works. I, like most people, know far too little about Bruce Conner. I hope to learn more soon.
-Jeff Bergman May 2015