Men, Women, and Little Girl at the Richard Serra Show

by

12/02/2001

555 West 24th Street New York, New York 10011

Neighborhood: Chelsea

I went straight for the headliners, Sylvester and Bellamy: two huge pieces of weatherproofed steel, each 16 feet high and a few inches thick curved into two distinct gigantic spirals about 50 feet in diameter. You can walk into both, in the spaces between the huge curves of steel, and you keep going until you the material runs out, at which point you reach a large central ventricle.

I approached Sylvester first. A tiny girl, about 4 years old, was sitting at its entrance. Dressed in a rumpled blue and white gingham dress with a white t-shirt underneath, white anklets and well-worn red-sequined shoes, it was immediately obvious that she dressed as Dorothy from Oz, even if it wasn’t Halloween. Sitting with her back against Sylvester, she looked like an especially small ladybug on an especially large rose. Her mother was looking down at her.

“What wrong honey?” her mom said.

“I’m sad,” Dorothy said.

“How come?”

“Because I can’t pick it up,” she said.

“But honey, no one can. It’s too big and heavy.”

“I know Mommy, but I want to. And see what I can do?” She got up and put her little hands in a crack between the floor and giant Sylvester.

“Please, honey, don’t do that, that’s not safe.”

That was all I heard of the interaction, because I decided to get moving through Sylvester, thinking that staying to eavesdrop on Dorothy and her mom would have been rude. I followed its curves to its center “room.” Something about Sylvester made me want to cry. This was, possibly, because I was very over-tired. But maybe it also had something to do with how immense and solid it was. At first, I felt comforted by its heft. Then I got a strange urge to try and hug Sylvester, or lay on it, or throw a leg around it, but its surface was too flat and rounded. I felt like Dorothy. It didn’t make sense, any of the stuff I wanted to do, but that didn’t change the way I felt.

After I walked out of Sylvester, I headed to Bellamy, which is very similar to Sylvester except her curves are different (as any girl’s would be different from any boy’s). Serra built the sculptures for the Gagosian, and Sylvester is closer to the gallery’s window, so that another difference was that Sylvester was much sunnier and happier than gloomy Bellamy. When I got to the middle of Bellamy, I stood for a moment. Three forty-something men were staring at its steel wall in silence. It seemed they’d been there forever, looking at the surface, which looked somewhat rusted and largely uniform, and that seemed both pretentious and stupid at the same time. I mean really, what was there to see?

Then three thirty-something woman entered Bellamy‚s center.”Isn’t it so great?” one said. “I know, it’s just… well, I don’t want to say.”

“It’s so cool,” another said.

“Yeah,” said the third. “I mean, I can’t believe it. It’s like, so big.” They went on gushing and I thought, Jesus Christ, would someone please take these women to the suburbs, or at least to Macy‚s? Suddenly, I thought the three were very cool, and clearly experienced art lovers.

Then Dorothy showed up with her father in tow.

“See Daddy?” she said once they were smack dab in the middle of Bellamy’s middle. Because he was taller than she, and because she’d been leading him, his hand was above her head in such a way that she took a twirl, like a dancer, underneath it; then she twirled back the other way.

“See, it’s a ballroom!” she said.

She and her dad walked over to look closely at Bellamy for a minute, and then they decided to go. Just as they were about to walk out of the center, a group of adults walked in past them.

“Hello Cinderella!” one man said.

“I’m not Cinderella!” Dorothy shouted.

“Who are you then?” the man asked, good-naturedly.

“Dorothy!” she shouted, sounding exasperated.

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