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Early Richard Serra Land Work Finally Gets Cultural Protection

Richard Serra’s “Shift” (1972) viewed from the western vantage point (photo by Sarah Zabrodski for Hyperallergic)

Richard Serra’s “Shift,” an early land work made by the artist in 1972, has finally received the indefinite protection it deserves. The township council for King City, Ontario, voted last week to officially designate the sculpture a site of “cultural heritage value,” the New York Times Arts Beat blog reports. This comes after a nearly four-year battle over the fate of the sculpture, which consists of six low concrete walls that zigzag across a privately owned field. Hyperallergic writer Sarah Zabrodski visited the piece last month and wrote:

“Shift” zigzags across an enormous cornfield (corn husk remnants cover the ground), drawing attention to the shape of the landscape by both conforming to and accentuating the undulating field. There are two sections of “Shift,” and each appears to move towards the other in echoed tandem. Each section is composed of concrete walls jutting out from the earth and rising or falling in height. … There are six concrete walls altogether and it’s possible to see why residents who came upon the site in earlier decades believed it to be the remnants of a building foundation, though it would have been quite the surreal structure. It hardly bears mentioning that photographs fail to capture the utter enormity and stunning character of “Shift.” To appreciate “Shift” is to walk its concrete lengths, feeling how the horizontal sculpture mimics the rolling field.

The King City town council actually voted in February to prepare a bylaw to designate and protect the sculpture, but as the Art Law Blog points out, this more recent vote represents the approval of that bylaw. You can read more about the history and complicated location of “Shift,” as well as the experience of trespassing to get to it, in Zabrodski’s piece. Spacing Toronto also has some beautiful photos by Sonia Ramundi that show the sculpture under changing light conditions from sunrise to sunset.

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