Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years

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Richard Serra
(American, born 1939)
Equal-Parallel: Guernica-Bengasi

Richard Serra. Equal-Parallel: Guernica-Bengasi. 1986

(American, born 1938) Weatherproof steel, four slabs, two: 58 1/2 × 58 1/2″ × 9 1/2″ (148.6 × 148.6 × 24.1 cm), two: 58 1/2″ × 16′ 4 1/8″ × 9 1/2″ (148.6 cm × 5 m × 24.1 cm). Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

RICHARD SERRA: One of the things that my art does, is that it allows you to examine things that thwart your expectation. This piece is based on your moving through the space.

I used two very low, long blocks, and two smaller blocks. And you read the face of each block in relation to the face of the next block. If the smaller block is in front of a horizontal block, it appears to be lower than the block that you’re looking at, even though it’s exactly the same elevation.

When the small block is behind the longer block, the situation reverses itself. rises in elevation. Even though everything is the same height, it appears to rise and fall in relationship to how you walk the length of the room.

Most of the work I do after the early part of the ‘70s, deals with one’s movement in relation to space over time.

In naming this piece Equal-Parallel: Guernica-Bengasi, Serra compared the equal relationship of the paired forms to two military bombardments, both resulting in civilian deaths.

RICHARD SERRA: Bengasi is a town in Libya that was bombed by the Americans in the mid-80s. And this piece was done a week after that bombing. I happened to be in Spain Guernica was a town in the Basque country that was bombed by the Germans to test out their airplanes prior to World War II. Picasso painted the famous painting after the news clippings.

And I entitled the piece Guernica-Bengasi because I was completely horrified that they had bombed Libya in that way and killed so many innocent people.