- Richard Serra
- Corner Prop
- Steel in two parts
- Height (Overall): 97 in. 246.4 cm. Cube: 20 x 20 x 20 in. 50.8 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm. Rod: 82 x 3 ¾ x 3 ¾ in. 208.3 x 9.5 x 9.5 cm.
- Executed in 1976, this work was remade with the artist's approval from the 1969 lead antimony original.
Blum Helman Gallery, New York
Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
Christie's, New York, Minimal and Conceptual Art from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company, May 5, 1987, lot 49
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Exh. Cat., Paris, Musée National d'art moderne au Centre Georges Pompidou, Richard Serra, 1983, p. 56, illustrated (1969 lead antimony)
Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Richard Serra/Sculpture, 1986, no. 31, p. 74, illustrated (1969 lead antimony)
Ernst-Gerhard Güse, Richard Serra, New York, 1988, pl. no. 26, illustrated (1969 lead antimony)
Bernhard Kerber, Bestände Onnasch, Berlin-Bremen, 1992, p. 180, illustrated (another example, 1969 lead antimony)
Exh. Cat., Berlin, Hamburger Bahnhof-Mueum für Gegenwart, Fast Nichts: Minimalistische Werke aus der Friedrich Christian Flick Collection im Hamburger Bahnhof, 2006, p. 214, illustrated (another example, 1969 lead antimony)
In an interview with Kynaston McShine on the occasion of his 2007 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Richard Serra commented, "One of the first things I did when I started working in New York was to write down a list of verbs – to splash, to tear, to roll, to cut and so on. I then enacted those verbs in the studio with rubber and lead in relation to time and place...The verb list allowed me to experiment without any preconceived idea about what I was going to make and not worry about the history of sculpture. I wasn't burdened by any prescripted definition of material, process or end product." (Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Richard Serra Sculptor: Forty Years, 2007, p. 27) For all its extreme materiality, Serra's oeuvre contains a conceptual core of premises that the artist has explored with ever increasing rigor. Corner Prop, from 1969/1976, embodies a combination of the artist's oft-quoted verb list, and is a classic example of the Prop series, the ultimate distillation of his aesthetic pursuits at the beginning of his long career of sculptural innovation. The vertical rod recalls "to roll'', which is the first verb in the list, and it enacts several of the transitive properties on the list, "to support'', "of tension'' and "of equilibrium'', creating an organic whole. The cube and rod are "propped", supported by a symbiotic state of balance and counter balance, weight and counter weight that comes into play at each point of contact between the steel elements, the floor and the walls. Originally made of lead antimony in 1969. Corner Prop was subsequently remade in steel in 1976 when lead proved too malleable a medium for Serra's increasingly ambitious sculptural designs. Another lead antimony Corner Prop was also made in 1969 and is currently in the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection.
The present work was a milestone with far-reaching implications for contemporary sculpture. Contemporary artists, following the lead of Constantin Brancusi, had simplified form into basic shapes and many of the Minimalists had long adopted the use of industrial materials to fabricate works that did not exhibit any trace of the artist's hand. Serra's Props pushed this modernist approach to sculpture to its most extreme conceptual basis. Elegantly simple in its premise, Corner Prop is among the artist's first explorations into a subject that continues to inform his career. In the 1960s Props, Serra liberated his sculpture from the traditional relationship of object and base, as well as from the historical methods of carving and casting. Many of the earliest works from the series that primarily used rolled lead rods and square plates were shown in a 1969 exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York which also purchased Right Angle Prop for the permanent collection.
The sculptural elements in the Props achieve stability from the exertion and tension of the weight of each toward the other and toward the wall and floor in a constant labor of elevation that engages and defines the space around the work and the viewer. The strong vertical element in Corner Prop can be compared to Barnett Newman's articulation of his signature painterly "zip" in the three-dimensional realm of sculpture. Executed just a few years earlier, Newman's 1962 sculpture Here I is the ultimate expression of the artist's tendency to a more Minimalist style than his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries and a precursor to the hard-edged post-painterly abstraction to which Richard Serra would relate.
In 1964, Serra had repeatedly visited the reconstruction of Brancusi's studio in Paris and was one of an entire generation of American sculptors who derived great inspiration from this master, particularly his Endless Column from 1918. The Prop series, however, potentially owes more to Brancusi's The Kiss from 1924 in which he explored the line of compression between two figures – a stone monolith with a central line rippling down the center separating the two bodies while also reiterating the point of their fusion. Corner Prop is also clearly influenced by the Minimalist sculptor Tony Smith. Originally trained as an architect, Smith was fascinated by Frank Lloyd Wright's module concrete blocks and used the cube throughout his career. In the present work, Serra elevates the cube as an essential element to the "prop". The Props are resolutely vertical and Rosalind Krauss states, "the extremely simple principle of their verticality rests in the heaviness of lead and its earnest response to the downward pull of gravity; for in that pull there operates the resistance that is the principle of the prop – stability achieved through the conflict and balance of forces." (Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Richard Serra Sculpture, 1986, p. 20)