While visiting Richard Serra’s show at Gagosian gallery in New York in 2016, Dweck found the artist sketching his latest steel sculptures. They got to talking, and Serra was intrigued by how his works could be transformed through Dweck’s photography. The resulting images render Serra’s monumental slabs as meticulously crafted abstract compositions that recall those of canonical modernists like Piet Mondrian, El Lissitzky, Fernand Léger, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Printed at a formidable scale, Dweck’s pictures exude the drama and rebelliousness of Serra’s works, while also discovering rich and strange qualities within them. Captured at intimate range by a camera, these cold, imperious metal forms, with their rusted and rough-hewn surface, take on the grandeur and complexity of nature—of towering rocks, mountains, and even waterfalls. An unexpected sensuality, not obvious when first examining a Serra, lingers.
The project presented an unusual challenge for Dweck, forcing him to make the leap from figurative to resolutely abstract subjects, a rare move in art. But as in the oeuvres of others who have managed to straddle that divide (Gerhard Richter and Ellsworth Kelly, to name two), Dweck shows how these two seemingly contradictory modes can actually result in more potent, more polyvalent work when viewed together. “The creative act is not performed by the artist alone,” Marcel Duchamp said. The viewer completes it. And so, aware of both types of work, that viewer might suddenly notice the compositional logic that makes a photo of a crashing wave or a female figure so indelible. Simultaneously, the completely abstract shapes seen here can take on a fresh emotional intensity and an uncanny allure when considered in the context of pristine missiles and immaculate flowers. To put it another way, disparate work produces friction, which generates heat.