What is it?
Richard Serra’s Left Square into Left Corner is an example of one of his installation drawings that obliterated conventions attached to the medium by bringing it into the sculptural and architectural realm.

What is the idea behind the work?
Like a great deal of Serra’s art, writes Ruth E. Fine, Left Square into Left Corner alludes “to the precarious nature of power.” What she means by this is that the work exaggerates the drawing’s physical space, pulling the viewer into a visceral experience of mass and gravity, despite it in fact only being 2-Dimensional.

How does he achieve this?
Traditional drawing techniques must fabricate a sense of depth or mass, whereas Left Square into Left Corner is self-referential, it does not imply weight, it is weight. Serra’s limited edition drawing commands the entire room. 

Richard Serra, Ballast #I, II, III, 2010, Etchings

Could this really be called a drawing?
It is an entirely new kind of drawing, one that you feel with your whole body, that can only be experienced by standing in front of the work. It’s absorptive darkness forces the space around the work to expand or contract accordingly. This limited edition actually comes from the series Metal Wall Drawings, which is in itself part of a long-running series of installation drawings Serra begun in the 1970s. 

Is the fact that it is in the corner important?
Left Square into Left Corner has to be placed in the corner of a room. A stipulation that enables Serra’s masterpiece to explore the intimate relationship within a specific setting, not just physically but visually as well. The viewer can experience the sense of weight, permanence, and even a kind of meditative moment. 

Why did Serra use metal?
Serra was always seeking to challenge the limitations of each medium and turned to aluminum backing once he had become frustrated by the maximum width of linen, 3 meters. Soon he would coerce printers to produce paper at sizes never before attempted, 6.5 meters by 6.5 meters. A specially built wall had to be erected so that another installation drawing Alameda Street, 1981 could hang and dry.

Richard Serra, Junction #7 & 9, 2010, Etchings

What’s with the Paintstik?
Richard Serra’s use of Paintstik or Oilstick as it is sometimes called was a revelation on a par with his discovery of weathered steel for his sculptures. The dense oil-based medium allowed him an unprecedented degree of control over the finished limited edition, imbuing the “image with texture”. The density of Left Square into Left Corner has the tactility of tree bark.

Is each limited edition unique?
Yes, each resultant print was wholly unique, possessing its own distinctive marks.

What does it go for at auction?
In June 2013 Richard Serra’s masterpiece Left Square into Left Corner sold at Christie’s, New York for £133,875, far exceeding its high estimate of £100,000. However, this was a slightly earlier piece made in Belgian linen not aluminum.

By Katja Taylor — FAM Editorial