Richard Serra (American, b. 1939)

In his film, Frame, Richard Serra makes a series of measurements with a six inch ruler that demonstrate the disparity between what is seen through the lens of a camera and the direct visual perception of the same space. An unseen cameraman directs Serra as he stands just outside of the camera’s frame (with only his arms and hands in sight), talking through his process and reporting his measurements.

First, Serra attempts to measure the perimeter of the area recorded by the camera’s rectangular frame as it is aimed directly at a flat, white surface. For the second measurement, the camera is placed at an angle to the same surface, and Serra is again directed through the process of calculating the perimeter of the camera’s frame. The viewer sees a rectangle, but Serra’s measurements reveal the shape of a trapezoid. His next two measurements trace the size of a window frame as it is shot from an angle, and then the size of a film projection depicting the same window frame. This confusing sequence of events exposes film not as a precise transcription of reality, but rather a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space.

Widely renowned for his monumental steel sculptures, Serra has worked since the mid 1960s to expand the parameters of sculpture and create artworks that inspire engagement between the viewer and his or her surroundings. Throughout his innovative career, Serra’s work has emphasized materiality and the processes that bring art into being.

Artwork in the Exhibition

Richard Serra, American, b. 1939, Frame, 1969, 16 mm film on DVD (black and white, sound), 19:00, Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, Circulating Film & Video Library.