Steve Reich on how a composer reads sculpture | MoMA BBC | THE WAY I SEE IT
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Steve Reich on how a composer reads sculpture | MoMA BBC | THE WAY I SEE IT


Steve Reich: I’m Steve Reich. I’m a composer. Richard Serra is a very old friend, and an artist
that I hold in the highest regard. And when the list of options was given to
me of what works were possible, it was clear that I would choose this extremely
important piece of a good friend and great artist. So when something comes along that’s indisputable,
like Equal, by Richard Serra, you are called to attention. His work demands your physical presence. If you’re going to possibly take it with
the seriousness that he intends it to be taken. When I first walked in, there’s a sort of
impact. I wanted to get up close. I wanted to see where my eyes were. I wanted to see that space between, which
is highly irregular, depending on the irregular surface of the two blocks. But the title is Equal, so, Equal… well, they also, one of them fits as finely
as you can fit something of that enormous size, whereas the others have overhangs or underhangs. In other words, the top piece juts out, or
it’s too short for the lower piece. You just puzzle that out. Richard was asked about what was characteristic about
his later work, and he said, “more weight, more density, more tension, more introspection.” Richard lives very emotionally, and with an enormous intelligence. He’s after what’s going to have a very
powerful effect, and he gets it. And I think the idea that you are dealing
with something that is really highly intellectually well thought-out, and is immediately obvious, is really characteristic. Because we’re going back to 1965. One day, he calls up, and he just, the conversation
goes, “Piece of lead on the floor, roll it up
to a pole. Other piece of lead, put on the wall. The pole is right up against it, so it holds
it in place. You got it? What do you think?” I said, “Richard, I got to see.” He said, “Come on over.” I go over, and it’s exactly as he described, But the effect of it is, like, kind of magic. Like, you can sense that this piece of lead
is not just a piece of paper or anything remotely like that. And this other piece is like, just hitting it in
one place, and you know, is that really going to hold? Ann Temkin: Precarious. Steve: Precarious. That seems to have persisted. And the fact that it has persisted in so many
different, constantly changing, but, sort of, recognizably the same persona, the same human presence. Is as remarkable as any artist I can think
of. And here we are, you know, with something,
like fifty years later. So here he’s playing with these enormous
versions of blocks that kids could play with, and getting them so that they all round off
at the top the same, which a kid might want to do, but you know, with a totally different effect. And this is not the work of a young man. Richard’s clearly following the inside guide. Moving on, but with all of the basic ingredients
intact. Constantly mixing in unforeseeable different
ways. That’s what’s wonderful, that it’s unforeseeable. Ann: Yeah, and you’ve just said very simply
and concisely, this is not the work of a young man, and I do think one feels that. Again, the word profound comes to mind. Paul Kobrak: And all his art is, I mean, it
is art made to last. Steve: I dare say, yes. It’s made to last.

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