Catch Richard Serra's films in New York this week

The artist's forthcoming exhibition of early work at David Zwirner also features a few of his task-oriented films
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Richard Serra in his studio, New York, 1968
Richard Serra in his studio, New York, 1968

Most of us know Richard Serra as a sculptor - a maker of big, oblique creations. Yet, as visitors to Richard Serra Early Work will learn when it opens on 12 April at David Zwirner's new gallery at 537 West 20th Street, filmmaking was also part of Serra's process in the early days.

The exhibition, which draws together pieces from both private and public collections made between 1966 - the year of Serra's first solo exhibition - and 1971, also includes a number of early film works. Though, don't expect any Hollywood endings. These short pieces are largely black and white, silent, capture simple tasks and feature the same kind of materials employed in his sculptures.

They relate back to the artist's 1967 - 1968 Verb List, a hand-written set of infinitives - to flow, to gather, to heap, etc - as well as a briefer list of contexts - of gathering, of layering, of time - which served as a kind of manifesto for his subsequent works. For example, Serra's first film, Hand Catching Lead from 1968 (below), simply features a man's hand grabbing or attempting to grab pieces of lead dropped in from the top of the frame.

 


 

Meanwhile, in Hands Scraping, also from 1968, Serra and his fellow artist, the New York composer Philip Glass, gather together steel filings from the floor of Serra's studio.

 


These oddly satisfying short films offer us greater insight into the sculptor's work, as well as serving as a clear extension to his early pieces. Find out more about the exhibition on David Zwirner's site, and if you're eager to learn more about this sort of thing, take a look at our Minimalism book, which has been recognized internationally as the most comprehensive, authoritative survey on the subject.


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