Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years

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Richard Serra
(American, born 1939)
One Ton Prop (House of Cards)
1969 (refabricated 1986)

Richard Serra. One Ton Prop (House of Cards). 1969 (refabricated 1986)

Lead antimony, four plates, Each plate 48 x 48 x 1" (122 x 122 x 2.5 cm). Gift of the Grinstein Family. © 2018 Richard Serra / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

RICHARD SERRA: I had built, I think, six or seven large lead pieces, all dealing with the relationship of a pole and a plate to the wall. But I got very dissatisfied with the wall pieces; that somehow they were still dealing with some sort of pictorial convention. And I wanted to move the pieces out onto the floor.

And so we decided to take four lead plates and just lean them up like a house of cards. And that piece weighed about a ton: it was called One-Ton Prop. And that was the beginning of a whole series of pieces dealing with basic tectonics of building. I nicknamed it House of Cards.

Once you understand how the House of Cards is being held in terms of one edge leaning against the other holding up all four plates, then you can think, what if you took these plates apart? Could you hold all four of them up simply with a roll overhead?

The piece that looks like the House of Cards opened up with the pole on top is called 5:30. It’s called 5:30 because we did it at 5:30 in the afternoon. Simply by looking at it, you can understand that the pole overhead is holding the four plates up underneath.