I think Richard Serra’s “One Ton Prop (House of Cards)”, from 1969, is the summation of his art, and one of the great works of the last 50 years. The piece – four quarter-ton sheets of lead, four-foot square and held in place by their weight – is now on view in David Zwirner’s beautifully Brutalist new gallery in New York. This “Prop” is all about risk: Physical, artistic and aesthetic. And then the product of that risk turns out to be wonder and pleasure, even beauty. The risk is real, so it produces genuine sublimity. In Serra’s more recent, crowd-pleasing works, the risk is all simulation – no one will die and pleasure’s guaranteed – so the effect is that much less potent.
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