Base Plate Deflection: In It, On It

Richard Serra (American, 1939-)
Hot rolled steel 
3/8 x 96 x 192 in. (1.0 x 243.8 x 487.7 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Artist 
Accession Number:
© 2016 Richard Serra / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 
On View

Richard Serra believed that the physical properties of sculpture were weight and materials. In his notebook, the sketches for Base Plate Deflection: In It, On It contain a note that says, “[the] Earth’s contour functions as weight, fulcrum and base.” The sculpture’s deflection is meant to curve with the earth’s surface and serve as an active dialogue with terra firma. The viewer only sees eight feet of the sixteen-foot artwork, as half of it is buried, in allusion to the invisible yet implicitly understood curvature of the earth. The viewer is left to observe the earth’s flat plane and reflect on its imperceptible curvature. Viewers are dealing not only with their relationship with the artwork, but also with the larger earth as a whole.

Lying flat, and being two-dimensional, Base Plate Deflection: In It, On It resembles a painting, and can be seen as one of the examples of Serra’s transition to larger-scale outdoor sculpture. Here, Serra literally marries the form to the topography of the landscape. The rear half of the sculpture is buried at a half-inch deflection allowing the earth to act as the fulcrum over which the sheet of steel bends.

Often overlooked because of its unassuming profile, Base Plate Deflection: In It, On It offers the more observant visitor to the Museum a glimpse into the thought processes of one of the twentieth century’s leading sculptors.


Richard Serra, gift 1970 to;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1970-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.

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