Skullcracker by Richard Serra

Who’s the artist? Richard Serra

What am I looking at? Stacked slabs of steel

When was it made? 1969

Where is it right, right now? I can’t say for sure… but it probably lives in the dark recesses of Serra’s memory


Ok… Why is that so important?

Truth be told, Serra’s Skullcracker Series isn’t among his most important work. If you google his name, people don’t really write about it because at this early point in his work, he is still playing with traditional minimalist concepts. He’s now known for being a sculptor of the post-abstract expressionist period. That being said, I personally love this series because it’s so explicitly morbid and raw…

The Skullcracker Series isn’t unique in motivation or manifestation. But what it does well is taking the minimalist concept of making the viewer aware of their presence within a space to the absolute extreme.

The name of the series communicates blatant violence; the sculpture itself feels dangerous. It’s huge, heavy and puts the viewer in distress by how precariously the slabs are arranged. Viewers know that they may actually be killed if the slabs happened to not be secured correctly. Which really happened with one of his artworks. Yes, in 1971, his artwork, One Ton Prop, was improperly fabricated and it killed someone.

So although this series didn’t result in a death, it’s the rawest piece in the artist’s body of work that communicates something poetic and deeply troubling about the power of art.

In general, I’m drawn to minimalism because it’s fascinating that the simplest forms can communicate such profound truths. The title of this series foreshadows the death of an innocent man. This, as an outcome of Serra’s willingness to embrace morbidity and pain, might remind us to be mindful of opening your door to the devil.

Nothing but respect to the affected family.


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