Lot 57
  • 57

Richard Serra

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
728,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Richard Serra
  • Elevational Weights, Vertical
  • paintstick on handmade paper


Sotheby’s, Doha, Rota Gala Dinner: Unity and Diversity, 12 December 2011, Lot 6 (donated by the artist)

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

The utterly abyssal yet tactile ground of Elevational Weights, Vertical is archetypal of Richard Serra’s seminal opus of works on paper. Executed in 2010 and comprising a densely textured field of caked-on black paintstick, this work, and the greater series to which it belongs, is imbued with the material monumentality of Serra’s revered sculptural practice. Serra’s privileging of material properties, industrial fabrication methods, and reverence for the physical forces of nature is what defines his ground-breaking contribution to the history of late twentieth-century sculpture. Famous for his monumental installations of free-standing core-ten steel panes – which create immersive environments for the viewer as they snake and band throughout a given space – the works on paper reflect the same material purity and formal elegance of their monumental counterparts. Presaging the monolith-like forms of Serra’s milestone 2014 installation in Brouq nature reserve in Qatar, East-West/West-East, the present work is imbued with a microcosmic sense of the tension and weight innate to his muscular three-dimensional work.  

Drawing for Serra has always played a crucial role in the exploration of new methods and creative practices. As stated in an interview with Nicholas Serota in 1992: "I have been drawing in notebooks for at least 25 years… my initial engagement with art was through drawing, and drawing is still at the core of my work. I began to draw when I was very young. It is a ritual of sorts. I read almost all art through drawing – my own and everyone else's” (Richard Serra in conversation with Nicholas Serota in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Richard Serra: Weight and Measure, 1992, p. 21). This particular work is an emphatic illustration of his investigation into the tension of weight and gravity through drawing. Here Serra has packed on masses of black paintstick and in doing so addresses his principle artistic concern: the relationship between artwork, space, and viewer.

During the early 1980s Serra began using paintstick almost exclusively for his works on paper. Over the ensuing years its use would evolve significantly, and by the early 1990s, Serra had begun melting countless sticks of paint down and moulding them into homogenous yet highly textured painterly grounds. Echoing the monumental proportions of his sculpture, the paintstick drawings began covering large tracts of sturdy hand-made paper, often leaving bands or strips of the blank ground devoid of painterly matter. The result is a dialogue between positive and negative, excess and absence, material presence and immaterial space. Texture plays a significant role here; like the oxidised orange patina of his core-ten sculpture, the visceral quality of Serra’s paintstick work on paper exudes an organic yet industrial elegance.

Finally the importance of black for Serra’s drawings cannot be understated. In Notes on Drawing, 1990, Serra wrote: "Black is a property, not a quality. In terms of weight, black is heavier, creates a larger volume, holds itself in a more compressed field. It is comparable to forging" (Richard Serra, ‘Notes on Drawing’, in: Hans Jenssen, Ed., Richard Serra: Drawing 1969-1990: Catalogue Raisonné, Bern 1990, p. 11). He believes that this weight comes from the ability of black to absorb light; herein, by virtue of its density, the black oilstick could essentially imply the absolute properties of mass and therefore the physical laws of gravity which are so fundamental to his sculptural output.

While it is important to see Serra’s drawings as linked to his sculptural practice, they exist as independent ruminations on the recurrent themes of space and gravity. Indeed, through these works Serra has exponentially expanded the remit of drawing as an artistic discipline, expanding the capacity for two-dimensions to challenge the strictures of materiality, depth, and weight.