- Richard Serra
- hot-rolled steel in five parts
Galerie Alfred Schmela, Düsseldorf (acquired directly from the above in 1979)
Acquired by the present owner in 1998
Dating from 1976-77, Lock is one of just eleven large-scale outdoor steel sculptures that Serra made in the 1970s. The work is formed from five separate steel parts: two thin plates that stand upright on their sides and three smaller blocks that sit along the ground. These separate elements are not fused in any way; rather Serra relies on the forces of gravity and a careful balancing of the relative weights to achieve stability. In this respect it relates directly to his ‘prop’ pieces of the previous decade and forms an important link between them and his later large-scale steel works, preserving an idea that had always been central to his œuvre, as the artist explained: ‘I think I’ve chosen particular aspects in the making of sculpture that locate content in various areas: Balance happens to be one to them. Mass happens to be one of them…weight…placement…context…’ (quoted in David Seidner, ‘Richard Serra’, in BOMB Magazine, no. 42, Winter 1993).
As in much of Serra’s mature work, Lock creates an environment in which the viewer has a creative and exploratory relationship with the work of art. From a distance it is possible to see the full sweep of the longer, upright steel plates but you cannot see the interlocking inner section – there is no sense of its depth and complexity. Seen end-on this complexity and the interaction of its parts is clearly visible, but the scale and permanence of the long steel plates are lost from view. The process of viewing therefore demands a passage through and around the work; it is an experience that must take place as a duration, forcing the viewer to contemplate the passing of time. This is a central concern in Serra’s work and apparent in his choice of materials, from the molten lead of his process driven Splash pieces to the steel of the current work which, in rusting – a process both deliberate and uncontrollable on the part of the artist – displays its intrinsic properties and reveals the marks of time. Serra acknowledged the importance of time in his work in an interview in 2008: ‘all I’ve been working on for maybe the last 15 or 20 years is dictated by the moving body moving through various durations. Time and duration have really become the subtext of what drives the work because I think the thing that is probably most personal to all of us, and most subjective to all of us, is our relation to time’ (quoted in an interview with Louisa Buck, The Art Newspaper, no. 196, November 2008, p. 4).
Lock was exhibited at the Frieze Sculpture Park in Regent’s Park, London, in 2015. This was the first time it had been seen since it was initially exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 1977.