Changing spaces: Spatial destruction & the sculpture of Richard Serra
Hammer, Brian Wayne
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Commissioned by the General Services Administration's (GSA) Art-In-Architecture program in 1979 to create a public sculpture for 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan, New York, American sculptor, Richard Serra, created a massive two inch thick corten-steel sculpture measuring 120 ft. in length and 12 ft. in height that came to be known as Tilted Arc. Symbolic of one of the most recognizable art controversies of the twentieth century, the public of Federal Plaza demanded the removal of the sculpture shortly after its installation in 1981. What is interesting about this controversy is that the majority of complaints concerning Tilted Arc were not so much about its aesthetics, but its negation of the plaza's function and the public's use of it. It's as if Tilted Arc destroyed the very nature of the public space of Federal Plaza and created something different. This is not all that surprising since Richard Serra has claimed on numerous occasions that his sculpture possesses the ability to work against the conventions of a specific space and create a new space. By analyzing the spatially destructive characteristics of Minimalism and Post-Minimalism and through an examination of Tilted Arc itself, I aim to show how Serra's sculpture destroyed the public space of 26 Federal Plaza.