The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its new exhibit "Richard Serra: Drawings," is nominally showcasing another side to the artist who is primarily known for his large-scale steel sculptures.
But despite the exhibit's title, the pieces on view - a collection of more than 40 works-on-paper from the past 40 years - are decidedly sculptural.
Serra's drawing practice involves creating large geometric shapes on pieces of paper with black - and only black - paintstick, a sort of oil-based crayon. The result is something like a one-dimensional sculpture. His objective is not illustration, but rather creating an object to which the viewer has to physically respond.
These monoliths dominate the gallery spaces, and their stark, nonreflective blackness draws in all light from the room, making each object a looming, formidable presence. The viewer is all but commanded to engage with each piece, and to consider their spatial relationship with both the drawing and the gallery around them.
Serra has subverted the separation between viewer and wall-hung painting, instead emphasizing the physical relationship between the two. Viewers experience the art not just by looking at each piece, but by walking around and existing with the work. The effect is astounding.
If you go: "Richard Serra: Drawings"
• At the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Aug. 28
• Audio guide, on which Serra speaks, is highly recommended.
• 1000 Fifth Ave., metmu seum.org