Monumental Minimalism


On a pleasant November day in 2023, my friend Roni and I embarked on a drive to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. As we made our way to the museum's entrance, we were immediately struck by the imposing presence of Richard Serra's monumental sculpture, Vortex.

A tall brown steel sculpture stands in front of a building surrounded by trees and with a blue sky in the backgroundPhoto via

Standing an impressive 67 feet tall, Vortex commands attention with its towering steel panels and intriguing composition. The seven vertical panels converge at the top, forming a heptagon-shaped aperture that beckoned us closer. Intrigued, we slipped in between the panels, instantly enveloped in a space that seems to amplify every sound—a hallmark of Serra's immersive approach to sculpture.

A heptagonal hole opens up to the white sky at the top of a large brown steel sculpture.
Photo: Swain McCaughrin

A large brown steel sculpture in front of a blue skyPhoto: Swain McCaughrin

A large brown steel panel with a sliver of sky and trees showing on the left-hand side.Photo: Swain McCaughrin

What struck us most about Vortex was not just its sheer scale, but also its ability to transform our perception of space. As we stood within the sculpture, surrounded by its towering walls, we experienced a heightened awareness of our own presence and movement. The interplay of light and shadow across the steel surfaces create dynamic visual effects, enhancing the sculpture's enigmatic allure.

Reflecting on our visit, I couldn't help but recall other encounters with Serra's work. During a trip to Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park, I stumbled upon another of his sculptures that bore a striking resemblance to Vortex. Positioned amidst the park's scenic landscape, the sculpture—like many of Serra's creations—seems to interact effortlessly with its surroundings, blurring the boundaries between art and environment.

Four large panels of brown steel stand on the grey ground in front of trees and a cloudy sky.Photo: Swain McCaughrin

Serra's distinctive style and use of industrial materials resonate deeply with me. His sculptures, with their clean lines and monumental forms, invite introspection and exploration. Each encounter with a Serra piece offers a unique perspective, challenging viewers to engage with art in unconventional ways.

As we left the museum that day, Vortex lingered in our minds—a testament to Richard Serra's enduring impact on contemporary sculpture. His ability to evoke emotion and provoke thought through monumental installations like Vortex underscores the power of art to transcend the ordinary and inspire profound experiences.

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