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Robert Morris, untitled, 1967-68 and Richard Serra, Davidson Gate, 1970

What role does gravity play in the work of Morris and Serra?

In 1967, Robert Morris began making soft felt sculptures, allowing the pliable nature of the materials to shape the overall form of the work. He worked with industrial felt because of its supple nature, and because it would not involve any kind of construction. It was supple enough to react to gravity, and yet firm enough to hold a shape. The felt pieces can never be displayed the same way twice. Every time they are reinstalled the composition of tangled loops changes. This was intentional, as Morris wanted to make an indeterminate object with an indefinite set of formal possibilities. The work challenges the conventional notion that art is a final, frozen-in-time, end-product.

Gravity also became a central issue in Richard Serra's work. In 1969-70, he experimented with molten lead, which he splashed against a small steel plate that was wedged in a corner of his studio. He realized that if the angle of the floor and walls alone would hold up this small plate, it would also support a large steel plate. Thus began what is known as the Prop series, in which he explored the tensions that arise out of the combination of massive weight, gravity, and balance - huge plates of lead or rolled steel leaning against each other, supported only by their weight, without recourse to such devices as clips, gluing, or welding. The weight and density of the work, in con-junction with gravity, held the structures together.