Before experiencing the Richard Serra Drawing exhibition at SFMoMA, it’s important to remember his perspective on why he sculpts to begin with. In the same way that his sculptures are best experienced as architecture, many of his drawings are intended to similarly transform existing rectilinear gallery spaces.
The best way to think of a lot of the drawings are as two-dimensional sections* of his sculptures mounted on the gallery walls. You get the same sense of mass and space when standing nearby his drawings as you do when standing inside one of his sculptures.** Don’t just look at them from the door to the gallery. Get up close, smell the paint stick, observe the texture, and feel the way they change the experience of being inside the room.
*In a mathematic conic-section way of thinking.
Then get yourself to Stanford (or anywhere else a Serra sculpture is available to walk through) and see the results in three dimensions. His sculptures never seem to be displayed with the same type of information which accompanied his drawings.
In many ways the sculptures don’t need it as they stand on their own power. In other ways, they’re much poorer without it since people have a tendency to make them about observing the steel rather than experiencing the space. So it’s nice to have the extra information in mind.
The other drawings reminded me a lot of Il Lee’s work* in that they involved using a simple tool** to build lines on lines upon lines to create a large mass of color and texture. I liked these drawings but they weren’t as powerful to me as the ones which evoked his sculpture.
*Which made me a huge fan of the San José Museum of Art.
**Paint sticks for Serra, Ballpoint pens for Lee.
Also worth seeing, the room of notebooks which show sketches of works (realized or not) and give a sense for how a giant steel sculpture is conceived.