National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Five Plates, Two Poles Richard Serra (sculptor)
American, born 1939
Five Plates, Two Poles, 1971
hot-rolled steel
overall installed: 243.84 x 548.64 x 701.04 cm (96 x 216 x 276 in.) gross weight: 29281 lb. (13281.774 kg) gross weight (each plate): 5227 lb. (2370.952 kg) gross weight (each pole): 1573 lb. (713.508 kg)
Gift of The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
© 2001 Richard Serra
On View
From the Tour: Selections from the Modern and Contemporary Collections

Beginning in the late 1960s, within the context of minimal and process art, Richard Serra abandoned the notion that sculpture must be either figural or abstract per se, creating work instead that offers the beholder an intense encounter with properties of weight, mass, gravity, balance, and duration. Largely produced in lead and steel—materials familiar to him from early working experience in industrial mills—Serra's work radically departs from the history of sculpture as a carved, modeled, cast, or constructed object sitting on a pedestal or base. Five Plates, Two Poles is one of seven "plate and pole" pieces that Serra created from 1970 to 1971, during a time when he began producing work on an expanded scale, including projects specifically designated for various outdoor sites. The plate-and-pole series elaborates principles first explored in Serra's early "props." Five Plates, Two Poles is the largest and most complex: it consists of five eight-foot square standing steel plates that are partly supported by slotted steel poles. These heavy elements rest directly on the floor and are held erect by the force and counterforce of the leaning plates (which are not welded but touch each other at various points), an essential premise of Serra's work from this period. Walking around it allows one to grasp a sequence of shifting planar and spatial relationships manifested by the configuration of the plates; the power of this encounter is heightened by scale and implied weight. Five Plates, Two Poles represented a breakthrough for the artist, introducing essential concerns that he would continue to pursue throughout his career.

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