2-2-1: To Dickie and Tina 1969, 1994 consists of five large square metal plates made from an alloy of lead and antimony, which stand upright on their thin edges and have a long cylindrical bar of lead sheeting balanced across them. The slightly leaning plates are arranged in two rows of two, with the fifth plate positioned perpendicular to one of the pairs of plates, angled towards the gap that is left between them. The lead bar, which is over two metres long and around twelve centimetres in diameter, slots into the space between the five sheets of metal, touching one corner of each of the plates as it does so. The work is extremely heavy, weighing around 350 kilograms, and it is the collective weight of the plates and bar, held delicately in balance, that keeps the structure from falling over.
Originally produced in 1969, this current version of 2-2-1: To Dickie and Tina is a reconstruction made in 1994. The 1969 version of the sculpture was destroyed because the plates used to make it, which were composed entirely from lead (a very soft metal), sagged considerably. The 1994 version was produced using an alloy of lead and antimony, which is stiffer and stronger, although these new plates have also bowed very slightly.
Based in New York since 1966, the American artist Richard Serra began to make his ‘prop’ sculptures in 1968 (see, for example, Shovel Plate Prop 1969, Tate T01728) – works in which large pieces of lead or steel lean against each other in freestanding arrangements or touch the gallery walls, often in seemingly precarious or unstable formations. The components of these works are not welded together, but rely upon their weight and gravity to remain in position. In 1980 the artist claimed, ‘My prop pieces are predicated on balance and equilibrium (no permanent joints). The form of the work in its precariousness denies the notion of a transportable object, subverting the self-referential, self-righteous notion of authority and permanence of objects’ (Richard Serra, Writings and Interviews, Chicago 1994, p.114).
If the numbers 2-2-1 in the title of this work seem to be a description of how the plates are arranged, the dedication To Dickie and Tina most likely refers to two of Serra’s friends, Richard ‘Dickie’ Landry, a saxophonist and visual artist, and Tina Girouard, a video and performance artist. Along with the composer Philip Glass, the artist Chuck Close and the writer and actor Spalding Gray, Landry helped Serra to install 2-2-1: To Dickie and Tina for an exhibition at the Leo Castelli Warehouse in New York. Opening in December 1969, the show was Serra’s first solo exhibition in the United States, and Landry has claimed that the artist asked him and the other men for their suggestions for the compositions of the various ‘prop’ sculptures in the show, all of which were arranged on site, with Landry deciding on the final composition for 2-2-1: To Dickie and Tina (Allen 2010, accessed 14 May 2014).
Serra has often stressed the importance of specific sites in relation to the production of his sculptures, claiming that, ‘The site determines how I think about what I am going to do, whether it be an urban or landscape site, a room, or other architectural enclosure’ (Serra 1994, p.115). However, art historian Rosalind Krauss has claimed that 2-2-1: To Dickie and Tina and Serra’s other ‘prop’ sculptures of 1969 maintain an ‘internal dynamic’ that secures ‘their independence of any external ground, be it floor or wall’ (Rosalind E. Krauss, ‘Richard Serra: Sculpture’, in Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg 1994, p.46).
Serra’s work, which has also encompassed monumental public sculptures, installations, drawings, prints and films, has often been considered post-minimalist, a term developed in the early 1970s to describe artists (including Eva Hesse, Lynda Benglis and Barry Le Va) who placed greater emphasis on material properties and processes than on geometric order, which had been a main focus for minimalist artists in the 1960s.
Richard Serra: Props, exhibition catalogue, Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg, Düsseldorf, 1994, p.46, reproduced p.123.
Kynaston McShine and Lynne Cooke, Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York 2007, reproduced p.143.
Clifford Allen, ‘Richard Landry’, Paris Transatlantic, August 2010, http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magazine/interviews/landry.html, accessed 14 May 2014.
Supported by Christie’s.