Notes on Richard Serra’s 3 = elevations (1978)

“Notes on Richard Serra’s 3 = elevations, in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s ‘Structures for Behaviour’,” Artists Review, 1:16 (May 30, 1978), pp. 4-5.


Notes on Richard Serra’s 3 = elevations,
In the Art Gallery of Ontario’s “Structures for Behaviour”

1. Each piece of steel is a discrete mass (with definite length, breadth and depth) oriented to each other and in a space.
2. Each mass is a different height but all horizontal planes (top and bottom) are equal in elevation due to their topographic setting.
3. The three masses roughly triangulate an area.
4. There is a judged centre point of the directional lines of the three masses.
5. The a priori conception of triangulation is abandoned through the observations that arise in situating oneself in the approximate centre. The outcome of physical movement and visual and concomitant spatial adaption obviates the original conception.
6. Each mass is in its own right a separate mass and part of a space of three masses.
7. Relations can exist between two of the three masses at a time.
8. The terrain causes the spectator to vary an ideated and expected geometrically projected path.
9. The constituent elements of the masses are constructions in relation to one’s movement and perception.
10. Moving directionally from one mass perpendicular to its face, one intersects the face of another mass.
11. Each face presents a construction.
12. A meaning is made obvious at that point through comparison with the other masses.
13. One’s line of vision aligns or coincides with the longitudinal line projected from the mass under observation.
14. But a line from the third mass does not coincide with the other two linear projections.
15. The tension between the actual line and the expected line separates the actual line from a triangular pattern.
16. The lines exist as separate entities, as separate lines, as constituent elements of each mass.
17. The lines begin to separate as distinct orientations.
18. The directional line from the original mass under observation that is aligned with the spectator’s line of vision is separate from that line of vision. It exists in its own right.
19. The two lines (line of vision and projected line) are not the same.
20. The directional line exists apart from the spectator’s vision. It asserts that something exists EXTERNAL to one's vision. It confirms the externality of the world. (Carl Andre: “The sense of one's being in the world confirmed by the existence of things and others in the world.”)
21. Other seeming constructions (see note 4) show that knowledge is not given directly in perception (see note 5).
22. Serra: “What I am interested in is revealing the structure and content and character of a space and a place by defining a physical structure through the elements that I use.”
 23. Only through the space of the site is the site known.
24. The sculpture does not abandon the possibility of an abstract sculpture whose meaning is posited in the medium itself and its constituent elements in conjunction with the perception of the whole and its parts through observation in spatial duration.
25. Fulfills Robert Smithson's criterion: “Art's development should be dialectical and not meta-physical,” in opposition to a suspect metaphysical art of a subjective, romantic and baroque sensibility.

Richard Serra, 3 = elevations, 1978

Richard Serra, 3 = elevations, 1978