Can one feel isolation and connection in the same moment? This is a question I ponder in the days following experiencing a great work in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum does a few things really wonderfully. Principally – as all art museums (especially contemporary ones) should be, it is free to view.
CAM has this amazing Richard Serra sculpture. It’s situated in the corner of the enclosed garden, which is not so great, but its a downtown location thats fixed so what are you gonna do. The sculpture itself could use about 8-10 times the actual real estate to do it justice. But once you get to it, you get part of what Serra was going after immediately – the viewer experience is something close to sensory isolation. You can have a moment alone with Richard Serra here, and it is wonderful.
BBecause it’s been there awhile, the corrosion on the steel has given it a wonderful patina and the frequent rains of St. Louis have generated organic irregularities in the finish in the form of parallel lines and sections that are more or less original/untouched that create an absolutely delicious sensory experience.
“Just don’t touch it,” the security guard reminds me before I walk inside. OK FINE… but I really want to.
I’ve had a few experiences in my life where I believe I really connect to a work of art in a way that, I believe the artist intended. It’s a combination of scope – these works are usually quite large including Serra’s work here – as well as isolation. The construction of this piece and the experience of isolation one feels while walking inside, which is multi-sensory – sight, sound, tactility. All these elements lend to a unique user experience and help to connect to the piece.
While I visited they also had an exhibition up for Basquiat – Basiquiat before Basquiat. Wonderfully curated exhibition of drawings, sketches and writings of Basquiat. I have mixed feelings about a show like this – the artist never got to celebrate the fruits of their labor while alive, as many do not. But I am still glad to be able to see their original objects and learn more about Basquiat that I didn’t know before attending. For example I knew Basquiat and Warhol were connected but I wasn’t aware that they met because Basquiat was selling his drawings on the sidewalk and Warhol bought one. Talk about hustle.
You can read more about Richard Serra in his Gagosian profile here.