Richard Serra

Prop
1968, refabricated 2007

Not on view

Date
1968, refabricated 2007

Classification
Sculpture

Medium
Lead antimony and steel

Dimensions
Overall: 89 1/2 × 60 × 54in. (227.3 × 152.4 × 137.2 cm)

Accession number
69.20a-b

Publication
Cast by D'Huart Industrie

Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc.

Rights and reproductions
© Richard Serra / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the 1960s, Richard Serra used industrial materials to explore the physical conditions of making and viewing sculpture. In 1967, he began composing a list of verbs: “to roll, to crease, to fold, to bend.” He then subjected various pliable materials such as lead, latex, and vulcanized rubber to these verbal actions, examining the results to see which turned out to be a viable work of art. He was particularly interested in the behavior and logic of his material—most often lead—and described his working method as “figuring out what lead does.” For Prop, Serra rolled an 8 x 8 foot sheet of lead into a pole form, which he then used to prop a 5 x 5-foot square lead sheet against the wall. The work relies on the perpendicular supports of the floor and wall for its construction, creating a tenuous balance of thrust and counterthrust. This sustained tension and possibility of collapse imposes on viewers a heightened awareness of their physical environment and personal vulnerability.


Audio

  • America Is Hard to See

    Richard Serra, Prop, 1968, refabricated 2007

    Richard Serra, Prop, 1968, refabricated 2007

    0:00

    Adam Weinberg: This five-foot square sheet of lead is held in place with a large lead tube propped against the wall.  

    Narrator: Adam Weinberg is Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum.

    Adam Weinberg: 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 l967, 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.



Richard Serra
24 works

View artist

Images and Permissions

Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
American Artist, Looted

Learn more