Sea Level by the American artist Richard Serra (San Francisco, 1939) sits as a spirit level in the middle of the rolling landscape of park De Wetering in Zeewolde. The two dark grey pigmented concrete walls run right across the park that was designed in 1986 by landscape architect Pieter van der Molen and artist Bas Maters. (1) The walls, each of them 200 metres long, are aligned diagonally on both sides of a canal. At their outer ends, the walls disappear into the landscape almost unnoticed, whereas in the middle - at the park's lowest point - they are several metres high.
With two 200-metre long walls and the grass and water in between, Sea Level is Serra's largest work in Europe. If you walk along the wall, the artwork gives you the feeling of being submerged under water while slowly floating back tot the surface a little further on. (1) When visiting Zeewolde, Serra was fascinated by the fact that the village lies below the surrounding lakes of Wolderwijd and Nuldernauw. Sea Level signifies the physical meaning of the notion of the sea level: without the dikes, the water would reach the top of the artwork. Thus, Sea Level reminds us of the creation of Zeewolde on the bottom of the former Zuiderzee. Depending on the weather conditions, the massive walls will undergo a transformation. On a sunny day the blue sky will be reflected by the shiny silvery wall, whereas on heavily clouded days the wall will take on a dark grey colour and look impenetrable.
That Richard Serra likes to work with steel originates from the fact that he paid his way through college working in a steel factory. Serra became world-famous for his colossal abstract scupltures made of rustcoloured Corten steel, which are usually considered to be Minimal Art and Land Art. His work often relates to the space for which it was made: a museum gallery, the city or nature. (3) For the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Serra made the gigantic artwork The Matter of Time (2005), consisting of eight enormous Corten steel ellipses and round shapes. The work's size invites interaction with its observers. Wandering amongst the scupltures, the ellipse suddenly leads to a dead end or the surroundings show themselves again around the next corner. This is also the case with works like Blind Spot (2002-2003) and Open Ended (2007-2008). His scupltures can be found all over the world: from Canberra to Bilbao and from Zeewolde to New York.
Location: De Verbeelding 25, Zeewolde (overview from bridge Kastanjelaan)
Material: pigmented concrete
Dimensions: 2 walls with a length of 200 metres each (and 200 metres between)
Proprietor and maintenance: the Municipality of Zeewolde. Maintenance is executed by De Kunstwacht.
Richard Serra, Spin Out, For Robert Smithson at the Museum Kröller Müller
An interview with Richard Serra in The Guardian
Richard Serra talking about his work in 2001:
(1) In Almere Buiten, in the Paarlemoervijver, you can find Het Bootje (The Little Boat, 1994) by Bas Maters
(2) Amy Dempsey, (2006), Destination Art, p. 117.
(3) Jeffrey Kastner & Brian Wallis, (1998), Land and Envrionmental Art, p. 293