Serra graduated from Yale University’s School of Art and Architecture in 1964, where he was primarily trained as a painter. After two years in Europe he started working as a sculptor; living in New York in 1966 he started to use non-traditional materials and techniques to transform traditional definitions of the genre. From his casts of rubber he moved onto metal, at one point even throwing spoonfuls of molten lead against a wall in a warehouse to not just create an object, but to create it through a very distinct, deliberate kind of action, an idea of process which he continued exploring through his subsequent ‘Verb List’ from 1967-8, playful prop pieces (such as ‘One Ton Prop – house of cards’ from 1969) and eventual larger transformations of existing space with his signature standing steel pieces.
I went straight for one of the most striking three new pieces specially made for the show – ‘Band’ from 2006 – letting my feet take me in and out of curves that always looked familiar yet endlessly new despite having seen the floorplan several times, and suddenly felt dizzy with perspectival vertigo (not just from the chanting), constantly thinking about that oft-quoted bit where Serra talks about a pivotal moment in his life, visiting his father working in a shipyard and seeing the large steel works hanging over his head as if about to fall. There’s a lot of steel hanging over your head at this show, whether it is a teetering curving wall or a slab of it attached to the ceiling (with something stronger than superglue i kept telling myself), and at times it can all feel a little claustrophobic, in contrast with his open-air works, but somehow at some point you forget about any sense of danger and become totally humbled and mesmerised with the beauty of aging texture, the artist’s revolutionary decision to present sculpture directly on walls and the ground bypassing pedestals still aglow with possibility, his ongoing, quest for always different, deeper and more abstract spatial experiences winning more converts by initiation. [extract : Lupe Nunez-Fernandez : Saatchi Gallery]