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All art, though, is process
art of one kind or another;
it’s just a function of
what you choose
to pay attention to
RICHARD SERRA ONCE NOTED THAT what characterised the artists of his as a realisation of a number of selections – ‘to splash’, ‘of gravity’, ‘to
generation, by which he meant figures such as Bruce Nauman, Yvonne spill’ – from Serra’s Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself
Rainer, Philip Glass, Michael Snow, Eva Hesse and others, was their (1967–8), which offered the artist a preset catalogue of actions and
shared interest in a ‘logic of materials’. What that material was, be it conditions that could be exercised on any given material that would
lead, sound, latex, film, the human body or some other so-identified accept them. In Serra’s case, items such as rubber and lead proved
stuff, did not matter much. What mattered was the matter itself, and most amenable.
how it could do for itself what was quite beyond the sole means of any All art, though, is process art of one kind or another; it’s just a
individual artist, composer, director, choreographer or what have you. function of what you choose to pay attention to. Pollock’s art certainly
The history of modern art has never tired of the story of the rewarded such attentions, for example, and this connection was not lost
gifted creator’s struggle with – so often euphemistically reframed as on those who mounted the critical reception of Serra’s early work, which
‘truth to’ – the materials of his or her (mostly his) chosen artform. But it saw Casting as nothing more than a reprise of Jack the Dripper’s hurled
was not until the second half of the 1960s that that struggle began to paints. But Serra was more interested in the structural character of
serve as the very animating purpose of so much artistic endeavour. And another verb, ‘to prop’, and the tectonics that the relationship between
it was no longer really a struggle either, but a kind of R&D programme any floor and wall well served, whether that angle was in Serra’s studio,
and partnership in which artists adapted to modes of working with any in Leo Castelli’s Upper West Side warehouse, the sidewalk and exterior
kind of inexpensive stuff that was close at hand and so redefined the wall of the Whitney itself or, in a later instance, in Jasper Johns’s
notion of ‘work’ in the process. studio.
That boxcar term, ‘process’, when paired with the engine of ‘art’, That last site proved decisive. Invited to recreate Casting for
is an awfully anaemic descriptor of the activities of which Serra was the older artist, but not having enough of a ‘mould’ for the piece as it
a part at the end of the 1960s, however. Partly put into play under a was executed at the Whitney, Serra chose the corner of Johns’s studio
synonym codified by a now-much-cited show at the Whitney Museum rather than its edge, and backed a short lead plate into it to facilitate
of American Art from 1969, Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials, curated the forming of the casts. The results of that session were double:
by Marcia Tucker and Jim Monte, ‘process art’, it seems, was the best there, of course, remained the accreted splashings of molten lead,
commentators could do when faced with works such as Serra’s Casting Splash Piece: Casting (1969-70), but there also remained that single
(1969). This piece, in which Serra threw crucible after crucible of molten lead plate standing in the corner, free of any other support except the
lead into the ‘mould’ made by the meeting of wall and floor, worked perpendicular meeting point of the studio’s two walls. Contemplating
ARTREVIEW five.linfour.linnine.linfour.lin
p092-096 Richard Serra AR Jun07.94 94 9/5/07 23:26:37
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