What is your favorite color? No doubt, my favorite color is black. It can be the cool or warm version but black dominates. It’s the opposite of white and represents the complete absence of or complete absorption of light. In fact, I don’t find it to be gloomy, somber, or murky. Surprisingly, it can be strong, elegant, and amazing. The artist Richard Serra proves that point masterfully in his current exhibition at the SFMOMA till January 16th, 2012.
Serra was born in San Francisco and studied English Literature at the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Barbara. His father was a pipe-fitter and Serra worked in steel mills to make ends meet. He eventually study painting at Yale University under artist Josef Albers known for his wide use and love of color.
According to the SFMOMA website: “Serra quickly rose to prominence in a climate where artists were reexamining Minimalism’s static formal qualities in favor of a more analytical approach to process and materials. Serra’s work took abstract and invisible properties such as weight, balance, pressure, and gravity — all of which are traditionally associated with sculpture — and made them visible and visceral. Examples of this practice include installations of thrown molten lead that use architectural corners as a mold, or metal plates and poles held in place by their own weight.”
On November 10th, Alison Gass, assistant curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA talked about Richard Serra’s piece titled Taraval Beach. If you’ve been to San Francisco’s Taraval Beach the wet sand can be dense and at night the beach, waves, and sky become a field of black darkness. The site specific piece is made of black oil sticks painted onto Belgain linen which is stapled at its edges to the wall. Taraval Beach is 20 feet wide and spans to the edge of SFMOMA’s ceiling.
At the end of the talk, I asked Alison Gass what was the reason behind Serra’s color choice of black. She remarked that since he is one of the founders of the Minimalism art movement, that could be the reason why he embraces a void of color. Then she refreshing and honestly said: “I don’t know.”
However, I see color in Serra’s pieces. For example, in his large sculpture titled Band at the LACMA, the metal’s oxidation process has changed the sculpture to a warm reddish brown color. After watching many videos and interviews of the incomparable Richard Serra, he’s one of the smartest living artists today. As a result, he’s an expert regarding the aging properties of artist materials.
Also, the SFMOMA exhibition features Serra’s 1967 Triangle Belt Piece. The art looks like a leather maze contorted into a psychedelic pretzel of dark and light brown rubber. The pieces are full of color and character.
According to Serra: “…I don’t think of any particular viewer in mind other than myself.” Bottom line, the only person who’ll know Serra’s opinion on color is the artist himself. Regardless, I believe color is in everything if you take the time to look…