Richard Serra, Prop, 1968 (refabricated 2007). Lead antimony, approximately 89 1/2 × 60 × 54 in. (227.3 × 152.4 × 137.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc. 69.20a-b
ADAMWEINBERG: This five-foot square sheet of lead is held in place with a large lead tube propped against the wall. At first you may be tempted to think of this work as a study in geometric forms. Notice how the tube casts shadows on the wall and the floor. Some viewers see the flat wall sheet as a reference to a painting.
Yet the artist, Richard Serra, claimed he was mainly concerned with the process of making sculpture. In 1967, the year before he created this piece, he began composing a list of verbs: “to roll, to cut, to tear, to shorten, to chip, to force . . .” and so on. The verb here is “to prop.” The wall is propping up the tube, and the tube props up the sheet. The sculpture, then, is a way of acting out the verb “to prop” in the medium of lead.
The arrangement points to the forces of gravity, weight, and motion that are constantly present in the world around us. The sculpture creates a direct, physical awareness in us as we contemplate its precarious position.