From the Collection: 1960–1969

Richard Serra. Cutting Device: Base Plate Measure. 1969 424

Lead, wood, concrete, marble, and steel, Overall 12" x 18' x 15' 7 3/4" (30.5 x 549 x 498 cm). Gift of Philip Johnson. © 2020 Richard Serra / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artist, Richard Serra: I was working in my studio at the time. And what I had been doing was take one material—whether it was lead or rubber—and subjugate it to a hand-manipulated process. And the problem arose: what would happen if we used diverse materials? Now, usually when you use diverse materials, you fall into traps of composition, of hierarchy of forms, that is, the relationship of one material to the other. And we wanted to avoid all those pitfalls.

And we decided to lay down like a ruler underneath a lot of different materials, and we called it the Base Plate. And then we took diverse materials—there's lead, there's steel, there's wood, there's tile material made of clay—and we laid them across the ruler, laid them across like a railroad tie, overlapped on both sides. And then we just took a circular saw and cut them on one side and cut them on the other side, and spread the work out. Basically, it restructured the work, and you could see the stuff had been assembled down the center, cut apart, and then it had just been moved out of the way. So, the overriding content was the activity that these diverse materials had been subjected to, being spread apart.

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