‘In a sense, you can’t form anything without drawing.’ – Richard Serra
‘The drawings make the viewer aware of his body movement in a gallery or a museum space. They make him aware of the six-sidedness of a room.’ – Richard Serra
Three sweeping curves in velvety black paintstick span Richard Serra’s Tracks #2. These parabolas are offset by echoing whites, and the juxtaposing textures form a complex arrangement of masterful balance. In a similar way to his early Prop Sculptures, Tracks #2 harnesses counterbalancing forces, holding them together by opposing black and white. Serra is known for his monumental and audacious site-specific sculptures, which activate their surroundings through concave and convex geometries; his curved lines are often inspired by earthen forms, including the San Francisco coastline, and Zen gardens in Kyoto. Tracks #2 presents a similar meditation, a thoughtful preoccupation with the relationship between material, geometry and space. The process of making is revealed in the dense, built-up surface of Tracks #2, and the gestural marks illustrate the movement of the artist’s hand. The drawing is optically charged, suggesting magnetic poles, a balancing act. The tension of inverse is a key element in his practice, and Serra understands a black mark to be one of the most forceful gestures to be enacted upon a white surface. As Serra explains, ‘To bring a piece together, you have to understand its volume, weight, and mass, and you have to give it a clear delineation. The line of drawing is essential for the articulation of all these components. In a sense, you can think of anything, and of anything among things, as drawing. Everything that relates to everything else in relation to space and place has to do with drawing, good or bad. You can see the whole world as a composite of delineated forms, a differentiation of forms. Once you see the world that way you can think of basic geometries, tectonics, and biomorphic forms as available to you in terms of invention in relation to material’ (R. Serra interviewed by G. Garrels, Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Menil Collection, Houston, 2011, p. 65). Even if the act of drawing itself informs Serra’s experience of moving through the world, his drawings are often created in response to a sculpture: ‘The drawings are the result of trying to ask and define what surprises me in a sculpture, what I could not understand before a work was built. They enable me to understand different aspects of perception as well as the structural potential of a given sculpture. They are distillations of the experience of a sculptural structure’ (R. Serra, ‘Notes on Drawing’, Richard Serra Drawings/ Zeichnungen 1969-1990, Bern, 1991, p. 12). Accordingly, Serra’s practice defies the limitations of traditional conceptions of art-making. The sculptural forms of Tracks #2 extend the work into space, suggesting a physicality on paper and gravity in suspension.