Richard Serra: Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure makes its Glenstone Museum debut

Richard Serra: Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure makes its Glenstone Museum debut | Pro Club Bd

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The newest addition to the Glenstone Museum is a 4,000-square-foot concrete building dedicated to a single but four-part work of art: Richard Serra’s 2017 Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure. It is not the first Serra sculpture to be added to the museum’s collection. In fact, visitors making the 800m walk to the new building are likely to encounter a serra on every path.

Four Rounds is located on the opposite side of the nearly 300-acre campus from the museum’s Arrivals Hall. Two winding paths lead from the entrance to the new attraction. Hikers who take the hillier trail to the left will pass by Serra’s “Contour 290,” a towering 2004 spiral of steel that wraps around a grove of trees. (“290” refers to its elevation in feet above sea level.) Those swerving to the right are likely to encounter “Sylvester” from 2001, a massive twisted spiral of steel with sloping walls, through which people follow a somewhat disconcerting path to the leaning but quiet center can go.

“Four Rounds” has a lot in common with these earlier tracks. All three are tall and stocky, but seemingly battered, with rusty patinas reminiscent of abandoned industrial objects. (One influence on 83-year-old Serra’s rugged aesthetic is his father’s work at a California shipyard.) But where “Contour 290” is tempered by its natural placement and “Sylvester” has a playful, funhouse quality, is ” Four Rounds” is regular, stern, and distant.

Its four steel cylinders sit in a cast-in-place concrete box designed in collaboration with Serra by Thomas Phifer (also the architect of Glenstone’s four-year-old pavilions). While the building sits directly on the museum’s idyllic Woodland Trail — where a black snake basked on a wooden walkway two days after the Serra Building opened on June 23 — it’s only connected to the landscape by a single entrance and white glass skylights, they scatter the sunlight. “Four Rounds” has been weathered on the outside to create its rusty red-black finishes, but it is meant to be seen on the inside.

Like other recent pieces in Serra’s Equal Weight, Unequal Measure series, Four Rounds can be seen as a return to the sculptor’s roots in process art, a movement of artists who prioritized the processes of making objects over the end result. “The importance of the work lies in its effort, not in its intention,” the sculptor once said.

Each full round weighs 82 tons, which is not an arbitrary number. It is the maximum possible weight in the foundry that made the parts, and thus a major limitation of the process. The cylinders are literally as big as they can get.

Despite the same weight and shape, each of the four fabrications has a different height and circumference. The entirety is a study in solid geometry, showing the various ways in which an almost identical thing can be made differently. More than one quartet could have been devised, but four is a sufficient illustration of the principle. Everyone is different from the other and yet equal.

This theoretical point is intriguing, if less appealing than the pockmarked patina that also distinguishes the four rounded shapes. As arranged here, the cylinders can be passed through and bypassed. But they don’t offer as complex a spatial experience as “Sylvester” or other Serra spiral ellipses. Perhaps that’s why the artist decided that “Four Rounds” should be displayed inside; The relatively small space around the pieces adds drama to the gallery visitor’s encounter with them.

Whatever the meaning of the process for Serra, arranging and defining space is clearly central to the sculptor’s work. He studied Zen Buddhist temples and gardens in Kyoto in the 1970s, and the interiors of his spiraling pieces have a meditative quality. This affinity makes Serra an ideal artist for Glenstone, whose buildings and pathways are so carefully integrated into the landscape. At this nature-focused museum, Serra’s sculptures are machine-like behemoths in the garden.

Richard Serra: Four rounds: Equal weight, unequal measure

Glenstone Museum, 12100 Glen Rd, Potomac. 301-983-5001. Glenstone.org. The Serra Pavilion is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m

Events: To be seen forever.

Entry: Free of charge, but prior registration is generally required. Visitors must be over 12 years old. Those arriving by Ride On Bus #301 do not need a reservation.

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