Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - July 15, 2011

A steel giant at Stanford

Richard Serra's curving, slanting sculpture 'Sequence' to be installed at Cantor museum

by Rebecca Wallace

The Cantor Arts Center is gearing up for a new inhabitant: one that's 13 feet tall, weighs 235 tons and travels via flatbed truck. Made of weatherproof steel, it's the 2006 sculpture "Sequence" by contemporary American artist Richard Serra.

A concrete slab has already been poured outside on the north side of the Stanford University museum where the sculpture will be installed. The work's huge sheets of curved metal have arrived, and await the artist's rigger to put them in place.

"There are 12 of them. ... It's enormously complicated to get them in order," Hilarie Faberman, the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Cantor, said last week.

Installation work is scheduled to start on July 18. When "Sequence" is assembled, it will resemble a pair of interlocking figure eights — massive figure eights that people can walk inside.

"The viewer enters through one of the work's two openings and can wander through inner and outer steel plates," museum officials wrote in a press release. "The curvilinear walls slant, creating a vertiginous and disorienting experience for the visitor who traverses the interior."

Visitors will also be able to view "Sequence" from above, getting an aerial perspective from a terrace.

This is the first time the sculpture will be exhibited outside. It's already rust-colored but will take on "a patina" outside in the elements, Faberman said.

Faberman saw the sculpture in its previous location, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it resided from 2008 to 2011. Before that, it was part of the exhibition "Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

"You're kind of overwhelmed by it and his mastery of space, and how space is participatory experience," Faberman said about her vivid walk through the sculpture. "What Serra's really exploring is weight, mass, balance, architecture versus sculpture, the spectator's participation process."

She added, "He's revolutionary in terms of his contribution to our understanding of what sculpture is."

To provide some protection for the sculpture, fences will ensure that people must pass through the museum to access it, and that it will be off-limits when the museum is closed, Faberman said.

"Sequence" is scheduled to stay on view at the Cantor until moving to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where it will be part of the new installation of the Fisher Collection in 2016. The sculpture belongs to the Doris and Don Fisher family, who are "great patrons of Serra," Faberman said.

The Cantor's north garden previously hosted another large metal sculpture of Serra's. His work "Call Me Ishmael" was there from 1999 through 2004, Faberman said. It had two 11-foot-high pieces of weathered steel that leaned into each other. "It was almost like the belly of a whale," she said.

Other outdoor art at the Cantor includes the Rodin Sculpture Garden on the south side of the museum, and Andy Goldsworthy's 2001 sandstone work "Stone River" to the east.

Info:For more about "Sequence" and the Cantor Arts Center, go to museum.stanford.edu.

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