Richard Serra

Shovel Plate Prop


Not on display

Richard Serra born 1938
Displayed: 2500 × 2035 × 800 mm
Purchased 1973

Display caption

Serra began to use lead in 1968 to enact sculptural processes such as rolling, tearing, and casting. However, he grew concerned that the finished works were mere records of the forces that formed them. He began to explore ways of making sculptures where forces continued to be at work at every moment of their existence. The two elements of Shovel Plate Prop push against one another in tension, the roll and sheet keeping one another in place. Propping is continuously active whenever the sculpture is installed.

Gallery label, April 2009

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Catalogue entry

Richard Serra born 1939

T01728 Shovel Plate Prop 1969

Not inscribed
Lead, 98 1/2 x 78 3/8 x 31 1/2 (250 x 200 x 80). The work comprises two elements, a lead sheet and a lead roll
Purchased from the Galerie Ricke (Grant-in-Aid) 1973
Prov: With Galerie Ricke, Cologne (purchased from the artist)
Exh: 6 Künstler der Galerie Ricke, Galerie Ricke, Cologne, March-April 1969 (no catalogue)
Lit: James Monte, introduction to exh. catalogue Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials, Whitney Museum, New York, May-July 1969, pp.14, 34, 36-7; D.W. [Waldman], note on Serra in exh. catalogue Nine Young Artists: Theodoron Awards, Guggenheim Museum, New York, June July 1969, n.p.; Robert Pincus-Witten, 'Richard Serra: Slow Information' in Artforum, VIII, September 1969, pp.36-9; John Anthony Thwaites, 'Working Out' in Art and Artists, VIII, March 1974, p.35; Clara Weyergraf, Max Imdahl, Lizzie Borden, B.H.D. Buchloh, Richard Serra (monograph-catalogue published in connection with the Serra exhibition at the Kunsthalle, Tübingen, March-April 1978), No.59 in the catalogue of his works 1966-77 (the Panza di Biumo version only listed)
Repr: Burlington Magazine, CXVI, 1974, p.174

Richard Serra first began to explore the possibilities of lead in 1968 by ripping away by hand the successive edges of a lead square so that the floor was strewn with a chaotic accumulation of lead 'tears'. Then towards the end of the same year he made his first lead prop piece and also his first lead splashing by tossing molten lead into the juncture of a floor and wall.

The first prop piece was done for the Galerie Ricke in October 1968. It consisted of a flat sheet of lead held in place against the wall some 80cm or so above the floor by a lead roll like a pole leaning against it towards the top. Another similar work of different proportions was erected a few weeks later, in December 1968, at the Castelli warehouse in New York.

The present work was made in Cologne in March 1969 for an exhibition at the Galerie Ricke. Serra created twelve works in the Galerie Ricke at this time, ten made out of lead and two out of neon; they included five prop pieces, all very different. (The catalogue of the Anti-Illusion exhibition at the Whitney Museum contains a series of photographs of him in the act of creating them). Shortly afterwards, in June 1969, he made a second version of this theme, of a different proportion and size, for the Theodoron Foundation exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum (reproduced in Artforum, VIII, September 1969, p.38 as 218.5 x 251.5 x 25.5cm). Later these were followed by yet a third version, made first in lead and then remade in steel, which belongs to Count Panza di Biumo in Varese, and whose measurements are recorded as 203 x 213 x 81cm.

All these prop pieces explore effects of propping massive forms together purely by weight and gravitational pull. The earliest of them all use the wall as a support. The first free-standing piece was his 'One Ton Prop (House of Cards)' made for the Anti-Illusion exhibition at the Whitney Museum in May 1969.

(This note is partly based on letters from Rolf Ricke and the artist).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.679-80, reproduced p.679

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