A “Richard Serra” has come to designate a very particular type of sculptural thing – almost always a hulking, mass of Cor-Ten steel plates of various curvature, carefully and complexly engineered, installed, and viewed. This is sculpture that can (and has) kill a person and depending on your disposition and/or feelings about Serra, can read as impressive, oppressive, or some combination of the two. Whether seen positively or negatively, however, Serra’s sculptures undeniably makes a statement. They commandeer and define Frank Gehry-designed gallery spaces, required the Museum of Modern Art to preemptively fortify the floors of their newest building, and stand up to – and harmonize with – large swaths of majestic natural landscapes.
This brings me to Reading Cones, or as its known to Chicagoans, ‘oh, that Richard Serra in Grant Park…’ (or perhaps more aptly, ‘oh that – ugly/weird/adjective of choice – hunk of steel with all that graffiti on in it Grant Park that smells like pee’). I cannot recall how many times I have driven, biked, or walked by it and barely given it a second thought – and this from an avowed Serra apologist, bona-fide admirer even. The thing is, the sculpture is small. A funny statement perhaps to make about a 17 ft. tall, 32 ton metal object, but in terms of scale and its relationship to its site – a massive park surrounded by the city and its distinctive buildings – the work seems, at best out of sync, and at worst, a bit dinky, to use a proper art historical descriptor. Continue reading “That Richard Serra in Grant Park…”