For his third-to-last show of 2013, professional interlocutor Charlie Rose brought on lapsed steelworker Richard Serra for a conversation about the artist’s ongoing exhibition of new sculptures at the Gagosian Gallery. Serra is no stranger to Rose’s television show, having been a guest thrice before his appearance on December 26 — a record for any artist on the popular PBS program. Not that the extent of his familiarity with the program was made apparent by the questions being asked. Almost off the bat, Rose let loose with what Michael H. Miller of GalleristNY aptly identified as “an Archetypal Charlie Rose Question that is simultaneously unanswerable, kind of unnecessarily combative and a little profound”:
Charlie Rose: “If you’re Richard Serra, are you competing against yourself?”
Richard Serra: “Well, ‘if I’m Richard Serra’ is a little contrary to fact — I am Richard Serra.”
The conversation meanders extensively from there on out, with some exchanges more fruitful than others. For instance, Serra gets into the technical specifications and oxidation features of the manufactured steel he uses, and notes — as he has before — that his experience in the steel industry as a youth gave him an advantage, an edge on the medium over many of his colleagues in sculpture at the beginning of his career.
Though there’s an awkward moment when Serra seems to insinuate that Rose is unfamiliar with his nonmonumental work (which Rose then states he is aware of), the absurd turn in the conversation gets sparked by Rose’s insistence, and Serra’s refusal, that a work “looks like a cemetery” — a charge that precipitates an increasingly ridiculous back-and-forth, including a criticism-by-slapstick pantomime carried out by Rose with a mug, a water glass, and a sheet of paper.
As if trying to outdo the oddness of the preceding exchange (which takes place around the 40-minute mark, for those keeping track at home), Serra wraps the interview by coyly mentioning a secret project in Qatar:
Serra: I’m off to Qatar, actually … I have two museum shows, and something else I’m doing there.
Rose: You can’t tell me what that something else is?
Serra: Not sure if it’s going to happen or not.
(I don’t know, maybe they want a massive shroud for Adel Abdessemed’s comically controversial Zidane sculpture?)
Here’s the full episode: