If, given the harsh weather conditions of the past few weeks, you might have missed Richard Serra’s installations of new sculpture at two Gagosian Gallery sites in Chelsea, you are in luck. The two shows have been extended and are well worth experiencing.
Now on view through March 15, the steel and concrete sculpture at 555 West 24th Street (possibly the coldest spot in Manhattan) is massive, ponderous, and sometimes funereal or at least wrought with the kind of permanence that makes us too aware of our own mortality and a massive scale that reminds us how small we are in the scheme of things.
When it is delivered as literal epitaph, as it is for Walter de Maria, in “Grief and Reason (for Walter)” there is a heaviness of form and spirit that does somehow come out in favor of rationality and balance. In other cases such as “7 Plates 6 Angles” and “Intervals” the emphasis is on movement. Not the piece’s movement so much (although that is implied as well), but more the viewer’s movement as one shifts about the cavernous spaces that these works inhabit trying to get the fullest sense of them and their impact.
At the installation on 21st Street, which is on view through Feb. 8, it is much a different affair. Although still massively daunting in its colossal scale, the undulating waves of the curved steel plates is inviting, but ultimately confounding. Like a Siren’s song, its walls call you forward, unsure of what tumult might be waiting inside. For all of the density of a piece like “Intervals,” its interstices and lower height make it more playful and engaging. “Inside Out” may be womb-like on some level, but it offers cold comfort at best, a fitting reflection of the winter of our discontent.