I knew of Serra well enough (my fine hometown is home to two of his pieces; see me wander through "Joe" here), and my first thought on seeing the pieces in this enclosed environment was, "Boo! They should be outside where they can weather appropriately."
My second thought was something like, "Hey jerk, could you move your ill-placed baby vehicle so others may enter the sculpture?!" Yeah, some ass-mom left her child blocking the entrance while she was nowhere to be seen. Hurumph. This woman clearly was not up on her sculptural etiquette.
But back to my first thought about the sculptures being better served out of doors. Well, tally that point for the Guggenheim because having the pieces in a controlled environment allows you to experience the acoustic changes in a way impossible outside. There were moments I was damn-near playing foot piano, listening to the way the sounds changed. (Touché, Guggers. Touché.)
Which leads me to "All of The Ways to Experience a Serra" (or, "How I Almost Lost My Proverbial Shit Inside a Serra Sculpture").
Look, it may have been the glass of wine I had at lunch or it may have been that I was wearing my glasses that day (this sometimes trips out my peripheral vision ever so slightly), but when R.Serra started tipping the snaking metal toward me and I felt off-kilter and the sound of my footsteps was changing and I started to feel space tightening around me and my feet fumbled a bit but I kept leaning, leaning, leaning into it, trusting it was going to open up and free me, listening to the sounds continue to change, looking at the crusty metal patina, walking walking, thinking how much longer can this go on the thing didn't look that big?, when it opens... and I've reached the middle... and I can breathe and smile and want to start clapping and squealing like a baby child.
You got me, Mr. Serra! Your big metal thingy that looks like nothing from the outside, it ingested me, squeezed me tight, tripped me up, and released me to stand there and wonder what the hell just happened. There were times when I felt like I was either going to cry or vomit or have some kind of extreme physiological response (I bring your attention back to the glass of wine from lunch), but I assure you this is GOOD. I am trying to tell you that I enjoyed this experience because it was a giant freaking EXPERIENCE brought on by A-R-T.
After I realized what a trip I had been on, I grabbed my sense of wonder by the arm and took the rest of them with such a curiosity. All of my senses were firing. (OK, except taste. Shoot, I should have licked it!) I didn't want to miss one damn thing that Serra was putting out there. Snake me around, buddy! Let's see where you take me!
I have not had such a visceral and emotional and multi-sensory experience to art in ages. (Though, I think often of the hours I wasted on the Cremaster cycle and this always incites an urge to vomit, but that's different. Hey Barney, I want my money back! No, even better, I want those HOURS back. You insult us to assume that anyone has time to spare on your schlock. *End digression.*) I loved experiencing these sculptures more than I can tell you, and I am fairly certain that Richard Serra is a genius.
Now if only they would have let him build the damn museum.