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Richard Serra on Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., who commissioned Serra's first outdoor site-specific sculpture, and the significance of the title Joe

Joe started me. I wouldn't have made what I made without Joe…[in 1969] he said look, Richard, here's three acres of land. (I hadn't built anything of any scale whatsoever.) He said, you know, it's your backyard, you go deal with it…I was completely paralyzed. He was giving me an enormous chance to enter into a tradition that had already been qualified. He was saying, "Here, you think you're a hot kid, go ahead and take it."

[…] There's nothing that accounts for it. I had no way of knowing beforehand that he'd say go ahead and take the three acres and do what you want with it. No way of knowing that. And it was the first big landscape [piece] I built in my life. It was one of the most significant pieces I've ever made, still remains that for me, and it started me. This piece [Joe], you know it's kind of like recognizing Joe and what he did for me.1

1 Richard Serra, Interview at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (14 November 2000) in the files of the Foundation, pp. 14-15.

Richard Serra on the origin of his torqued ellipses and spirals

If you're making pieces…with conical sections inverted, one plane leans toward you and one away from you. We [Serra and his assistant Allen Glatter] wanted to see if we could, instead of using sections with different lean, make an enclosed space with a continuous form that leans toward and away from you, but we didn't know how to do it. We toyed with it for about a year. I went to Italy while I was working on the problem and saw Borromini's San Carlo. The central space is simply a regular ellipse and the walls that surround it are vertical. I walked in and thought: what if I turn this form on itself?

Having made one torqued ellipse…I decided to put one of these inside of another one….Once I had done that, it seemed obvious that you could take the skin of one, tie it to the skin of the other and…make a spiral that would generate a top and bottom plane that were completely different, so I could torque a spiral.1

1 David Sylvester, "Interview" (21 April & 26 September 1997), in Hal Foster, et al., Richard Serra: Sculpture 1985 - 1998 (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998), p. 188; Richard Serra, Interview at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (14 November 2000) in the files of the Foundation, p. 4.

Emily Rauh Pulitzer, widow of Joseph of Pulitzer, Jr., and Richard Serra on the sculpture's relationship to its namesake

ERP: This may be too sentimental for your take on things but I see a lot of Joe's character in this sculpture—the elegance, the strength, the complexity, the aesthetic—is that all in my head?

RS: If that's what you see that makes me very, very happy. I could never have articulated it that way. I don't think of it that way, but if that's how you relate to this piece…to the heritage of not only this foundation but to this work and your memory of Joe, that makes me very happy.1

1 Richard Serra, Interview at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (14 November 2000) in the files of the Foundation, p. 15.

Richard Serra on experiencing his recent sculptures and the relevance of time (2005)

There is an unlimited range of individual experiences but they all take place over time. When I talk about time, I do not mean "real" time, clock time. The perceptual or aesthetic, emotional, or psychological time of the sculptural experience is quite different from real time. It is nonnarrative, discontinuous, fragmented, decentered, disorienting. The perceptual fragmentation, the multiplicity of views, the discontinuity in the process of viewing contribute to the fact that [the sculpture cannot] be reduced to one retainable image.1

1 Richard Serra, "Notes on the Matter of Time" (April 2005), Serra, et al. The Matter of Time (Göttingen: Steidl, 2005), p. 141.

 
Richard Serra - Joe (2000) Richard Serra - Joe (2000) Weathering steel. The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

This sculpture is the first in Richard Serra's series of torqued spirals. It is named for the late Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. (1913-1993), one of the earliest supporters of Serra's work. In the context of this exhibition the sculpture can be seen as a portrait (by associating its qualities with those of Joseph Pulitzer, Jr.), as an homage (because the title can be taken as a dedication), and as an embodied experience (in that the work is inseparable from one's movement in and around it).