Although sculpture is the most public aspect of Richard Serra's work, drawing and printmaking also play an important role. In the late 1960s, Serra poured, splashed, and threw molten material against gallery and museum walls, originating the idea of "process art." More recently, he has made massive public steel sculptures that tilt, torque, and twist. Drawing comprises a more private but essential element of his creative process. He describes the eye as a muscle that must be exercised every day and carries notebooks so he can sketch as the mood strikes him. Considering printmaking to be an extension of drawing, Serra has been making prints since 1972, and has completed more than one hundred thirty editions.
In 1989 Serra began a public sculpture, Afangar, on the small island of Videy, near Iceland's capital city of Reykjavik. During the project, which consists of nine pairs of basalt stelae erected throughout the island, Serra filled dozens of sketchbooks with related drawings. Working with Gemini G.E.L., his preferred print workshop, he decided to translate some of these drawings into prints, eventually completing twenty-nine etchings ranging in size from small to monumental. In an effort to achieve the dense texture of paintstick, a medium used in many drawings, and to provide an appropriate counterpart for the rough-hewn surface of the basalt stones, Gemini printers worked with Serra to develop an etching process that would give these prints the weight and physical presence required to emulate the massiveness of the sculpture. Afangar, the title for the sculpture, is taken from a mythic Icelandic poem and is understood by the artist to mean "stations, stops on the road, to stop and look: forward and back, to take it all in." Hreppholar is the name of a village not far from the site of the sculptures.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 199.