Richard Serra, ‘Trip Hammer’ 1988
Richard Serra
Trip Hammer 1988
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2022

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Niki de Saint Phalle
Shooting Picture 1961

Two works that bring to life questions of process, gravity and material open the Energy and Process wing.

The central space of the Energy and Process wing is devoted to artists working in the late 1960s who explored materials and forms derived from nature and everyday life. The Italian artists associated with arte povera revolutionised the making of the art object. As well as using ‘poor’ materials (such as rags, clay or wood), their work often included traces of the artist’s actions, harnessed latent energies such as gravity or magnetism, and disrupted the space between the viewer and the artwork. Related ideas were investigated by other artists around the world. In the United States, for example, the term ‘anti-form’ was applied to sculpture that embraced chance and other organic processes. Surrounding displays show how these developments had their antecedents in early modernism and have been extended into installations and into the environment beyond the gallery.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Picture is one of a series made by the artist in the early 1960s. Saint Phalle filled polythene bags with paint and enclosed them within layers of plaster against a blockboard backing. Spectators were then invited to shoot at these constructions, releasing the paint. The moment of action and an emphasis on chance and the violent gesture were as important as the finished work.

Richard Serra’s Trip Hammer embodies a powerfully material presence. The plates of heavy steel are balanced and unfixed. Carefully proportioned and poised, they combine classical simplicity with a sense of nervous energy and tension.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002) was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, and grew up in the United States. She lived and worked in Paris and San Diego, California.

Richard Serra was born in San Francisco in 1939. He lives and works in New York and Nova Scotia.

Curated by Matthew Gale and Ann Coxon