Peter Schjeldahl’s New Yorker article “Richard Serra Will Jolt You Awake” asserts that each generation has their “great sculptor”—and Serra is ours. Serra is known for his extremely large scale pieces which challenge the perception of movement, weight, gravity, balance, and the viewer’s perspective. We have seen a variety of Serra’s work this semester, from Dia:Beacon to the Gagosian Chelsea Galleries, so it was interesting to see Schjeldahl’s opinion on the artist’s work. The writer seems astounded by how Serra is able to create his work, and the excited and fascinated mood of the writer fuels the energy into the article, making readers excited by it as well.

This article explained the process and history of Serra’s career in a precise and informative manner. In my opinion, there was an air of mystery and even confusion surrounding his work. Learning about his process through the article, such as how the works are forged in Germany and shipped to Newark, makes the pieces seem more real and less elusive. Without a doubt, Serra has a unique style and helped define the modern way we consider sculpture.

Seeing the works in person reinforces the elements in the article. I was drawn to the patina of the rusted orange sculptures and was curious to how they got this way. From the article, I discovered that this was due to weather conditions from shipping the works overseas. In this sense, nature also plays an effect on Serra’s work. He has these incredible large steel and industrial feeling sculptures juxtaposed by the innate influence of nature. Serra’s work is minimal but powerful. I think that the space in which his works are shown are very important for the power that they have on viewers because they may not have the same effect in smaller spaces. I think Schjeldahl’s article does a good job describing the many facets of Serra’s curious process.



(image, Richard Serra, courtesy of

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