Serra’s approach to drawing
Traditionally, discussions of the materials of drawing identify a medium and a support. The medium might be graphite, charcoal, or – in this case – paintstick. The support is the object that’s been drawn on – usually paper. This language reinforces an assumption about drawing: that the artist is making an image on something.
This assumption is quite basic, but it’s one that Serra began to question in the middle of the 1970s. He wanted the work to avoid representation completely. Earlier in the decade he had worked abstractly, but these works still presented a kind of image – a discrete figure on a ground. This is one reason he worked in black, and continues to do so: he associated color with illusion, with making pictures.
In making this drawing, Serra applied a thick black strip almost end-to-end across a large sheet of paper. He has described this as a “plane of marking” – a space of action, rather than an image. He found that he wanted the paper itself to contribute more to the work’s overall impact, so he laid a second, larger, sheet of paper across the first.
At the time he executed this drawing, Serra was also working on sculpture in a landscape setting. The sculptural elements were simple steel or concrete planes, but their relationships to the gentle contours surrounding them were carefully thought out. Serra wanted to make sure that all the space contributed to the experience of the artwork. The same is true in this drawing.
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