Richard Serra’s early and significant Study for Flat Rock unlocks the sculptural quality of drawing, communicating a surface and weight that exceeds the standard possibilities for a work on paper. Serra deftly employs textural and tonal modulation using a paintstick, rendering a form that takes on a dimensional surface and mass. The work has a presence that alters the space it inhabits with a deep black absorbing light, luring the eye with a gravitational pull. Despite its absorptive darkness, Study for Flat Rock is not domineering; Serra skillfully balances the black form with an almost equal amount of white negative space, creating a sense of equilibrium and refreshing lightness as contrast. While initially intended as a study for a never-realized sculpture that Serra envisioned, Study for Flat Rock eventually inspired Serra’s cor-ten steel sculpture, Bilbao, and his original drawing endures as a composition on paper that defies the limits of its medium. In the words of Michelle White, drawings like Study for Flat Rock are “perceptual, experiential, and conceptual; [they are] a way to see, feel, and think” (Michelle White in” Drawing as Drawing” in Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective, The Menil Collection, Houston 2011, p. 13).
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