On prop pieces
In the late 1960s, San Francisco-born artist Richard Serra began creating so-called “prop pieces”, enormous slabs and poles of steel and lead that were supported under their own weight. Artist Tom Marioni, also from the Bay Area, remembers when he first encountered the work.
They felt like the stones from the pyramids. They took over the gallery. Sometimes these pieces are like black holes— sometimes his works wouldn’t function in the outdoors, because they’re so much about cramming, so much energy into an enclosed space that the gallery then seems to have an electricity in it.
Although the prop pieces weigh tons, Serra sees his prop works in a different light.
The prop pieces are really about a kind of defiance of gravity, they’re really about the mechanics of building without using a fixed joint, and the mechanics of gravity and gravitational load, and having two things come at an arrested motion, and allowing them to reach a stasis because of the leverage of one to the other. If they’re really done well, there’s a quality that, in some pieces, where there’s a weightlessness; where even though they’re being pinned, one seems to just fly away from the other. And if the weight is actually— has an equivalency to it, then the pieces kind of release and almost float.
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