An artist renowned for monumental sculpture in industrial materials seems an unlikely inclusion in a print collection; however Richard Serra is just that. Serra rose to fame with his Splashing works of the late 60s, which he created by flinging molten lead against the seam between a wall and the ground. His 1968 work Prop – a version of which the NGA’s International Painting and Sculpture holds in its collection – consists of a large lead sheet literally propped up by a lead pipe.
Serra came to work with Ken Tyler at the Gemini GEL workshop in 1972 and created a group of lithographs in stark black and white. The freedom of the Gemini GEL workshop suited Serra and the prints he created there on that first visit are characteristic of his early sculpture. The lithographs capture a sense of movement and vitality similar to the spontaneity of the Splashing works. Their geometric subject matter prefigures Serra’s later sculpture in which huge cylinders, cones, cubes and other shapes explore balance and volume on a massive scale.
Due to their size, Serra’s lithographs from this period have proved a challenge for NGA curators to show: they are difficult to move around and as such hard to inspect; they do not fit into standard size frames; and while they are most effectively exhibited as a group, finding a wall big enough to display them is not easy.
Over the last few months, the NGA’s International Prints and Drawings department has worked closely with the Paper Conservation and Mount-cutting and Framing teams to find a way and a place to show these important works. Custom designed frames have been created specifically for each print and four of these works will be exhibited in a rehang of the international galleries next month.
The above four works will be exhibited in the NGA’s international galleries this November. See what else is changing in ‘What’s up?’ in the current issue of artonline: http://nga.gov.au/artonline/152/