Taraval Beach II
Paintstick (oil/wax stick) on vellum
Inv. No. SG 3380
97 × 127 cm
A monumental black rectangle dominates this drawing by the American sculptor Richard Serra. In its homogenous density and exclusive use of straight lines, it demonstrates a positively radical emphasis on the two-dimensional. The surface, with its fine horizontal structuring, is the result of the application of colour in several layers with a paintstick, a combination of oil chalk and wax crayon. While the deep black absorbs the light, this drawing, which is almost like a forged metal object, conveys a physical sense of mass and weight. At the same time, however, the impression of an immensely heavy, immovable block is called into question by its precise positioning on the blank surface of the paper. Displaced from the vertical central axis and located directly below the central horizontal one, the black shape does not rest firmly on anything and thus has an instability about it that exercises an almost magnetic attraction on the viewer.
Ever since the early 1970s, Serra has been executing drawings analogous to his sculptural, site-specific work, which he began towards the end of the 1960s with works made of molten and cast lead. He moved increasingly to large-scale steel sculptures for interiors as well as outdoor spaces in cities and the countryside, for which he was and is compelled to collaborate with construction engineers and steelworkers. Serra’s drawings, restricted from the start to the colour black and the contrast between light and dark, are not made primarily in preparation for these three-dimensional works. As an independent form of expression which requires any notion of three-dimensionality to be projected onto a flat plane, drawing is nevertheless used by Serra to reflect on and clarify aspects also vital for his sculptures. Above all, however, drawing allows direct physical action on his part, which has no place in the process of creating the steel sculptures, where his concepts are realized by others. It is this creative energy emanating from Serra, the sculptor, that palpably informs his drawings.
In 1990, four years after the purchase of Taraval Beach, Richard Serra exhibited three of his monumental site-specific drawings in the Städel. One of them, Inca, remained in the collection and was for a long time the focal point of the stairwell.