Say the word “drawing” to someone, and they’ll likely think of an image rendered on paper in a medium such as pencil, crayon, or charcoal. Say “sculptor’s drawings” and what will come to mind is a preparatory sketch for a soon-to-be-realized, three-dimensional object, or of something more fully worked up that renders as completely as possible, in two dimensions, what could not be executed in three.

At root, Richard Serra’s drawings are traditional, in that they consist of marks made by the artist on a two-dimensional surface that is then hung on the wall. But as the well-selected and illuminating retrospective that has been touring the country makes clear, any resemblance to drawing as the term is generally understood ends there.1 Consisting of sheets of...


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