the late Richard Serra’s sculptures loom at D-FW museums

Massive presences in reddish-brown Cor-Ten steel: Spirals and concentric circles. Subtly curving ribbons on edge, single or paired.

Although the late Richard Serra dabbled in other materials and techniques early in his career, he was long since identified with those massive steel ribbons and whirls. Few artists have evolved so immediately identifiable a visual language. Few have created works so viscerally powerful.

The American sculptor, who died March 26 at age 85, is represented in museums and outdoor spaces around the world. In the Nasher Sculpture Center’s garden is Serra’s 1987 My Curves Are Not Mad, a pair of giant Cor-Ten ribbons, curving horizontally but also, oh so subtly, vertically. Taller than a human, they have just enough room to walk through, although claustrophobes may find it unsettling. Outside the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is Serra’s 2002 Vortex, a 67-foot-high swirl of enormous curving plates resting together at the top.

These are participatory creations. We’re meant to walk in and through them, to sense their weight and tension. They can be a little spooky, a little scary. If not so fastidiously balanced, they could crush us into jelly and bony shards. And yet there’s playfulness in turning great plates of steel into frozen motion. The Modern’s Vortex even has an acoustical dimension: clap your hands, speak or sing, and you’ll hear a chatter of flutter echoes. It’s a sculpture, a massive one, that talks back.

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