Art on the Lagoon

Transmuting Lead into Thoughts

The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): The Prada Foundation shows how Richard Serra's heavy metals once seemed vanishingly conceptual.

06.10.13 7:37 PM ET

This is at least the third time I have Pic’d the early works of Richard Serra, because I find such evident pleasure in looking at them. This installation, however, shows that this was not always how they came across. The photo was taken at a fascinating show now at The Prada Foundation in Venice, whose ancient palazzo has been mashed-up with an inch-by-inch recreation of “When Attitudes Become Form”, the great 1969 exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Berne, which first brought conceptual art into focus. What comes across most strongly in the Venice revisitation, however, is how much more present the “forms” now seem than the “attitudes” that shaped them – with these Serras as a classic example of how object-heavy this conceptual show really was. Period works that now seem all about their aesthetics, that is, once felt entirely about the ideas behind them, since their visuals  had yet to gel in our minds as art. Here’s my bet: That that’s true of a huge number of Old Master objects as well. They once would have seemed full of attitude, couched in almost illegible forms.

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