This is part of the monumental sculpture Joe, by Richard Serra, these days on view in a small private museum in St. Louis. Before I saw this piece, I really disliked Richard Serra’s work. It just made me angry in this I am not even examining this way.
Then a couple of years ago, on a road trip to St. Louis, we visited the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, and saw this.
We have some interesting new friends, here in town, who talk about art as a vehicle for consciousness, and Joe is one of the greatest manifestations of that function. To experience this sculpture, you don’t just stand and look at it. You enter it. It’s an enormous tilting tall spiral of Cor-Ten steel. The walls lean this way and that. You walk in, farther and farther, and abruptly you understand that everything in the world you usually regard as normal is a question. The only thing you are aware of is that the sky is above and you are breathing and seeing. Gravity, direction, weather, space, time all fall away.
Joe shows the the compass, the capabilities of art – that it can reach into your head and make you question the most basic physical , political and psychological reality. Art can do this, and it does.
When you are inside it – and let me repeat, you are inside it – it reaches deep into you and makes you ask about everything. And you keep asking once you’ve emerged from the spiral. To stop, you have to make a deliberate effort to put aside its challenge. You have to choose to go back, to be blind again.