In the mid-1960s, a young Richard Serra was working as a furniture mover and experimenting with time, process and material alongside friends such as composer Philip Glass, actor Spalding Gray and choreographer Trisha Brown.
“It didn’t matter if the material was sound or dance or voice or language, or, in my case, rubber, neon and lead,” Serra, 73, said recently to a group of art journalists at David Zwirner gallery.
The gallery’s first solo exhibition by the artist is titled “Early Years” and includes many of Serra’s experiments from 1966 to 1971.
The results are striking: lead is rolled into stacks like fabric or shrunken like a chewed-up cassette tape; there are ribbons of neon, folds of rubber and rarely seen films.
A 1969 sculpture, “One Ton Prop (House of Cards),” consists of four sheets of lead balancing against each other in the middle of the room.
It came about when one day, Serra and his friends hauled four lead plates up six flights of stairs to his apartment and stacked them like a house of cards.
“My wife came home, looked at it and said, ‘You can’t show that.’ I asked, ‘Why is that?’ She said, ‘That’s not right and it’s dangerous and you are going to hurt somebody.’ And I said, ‘I am going to show it.’ And we got divorced.”
The show runs through June 15 at 537 W. 20th St.; +1-212-517-8677; http://www.davidzwirner.com.
Here are a few more shows for a Chelsea gallery walk.
West 19th Street
At the Postmasters gallery, David Diao’s show “tmi,” which stands for “too much information,” addresses the art-market reality that most artists aren’t stars and don’t sell as much work as they’d like to. In one painting, “Sales (small),” red dots represent sold works during the years 1968 to 1991. The most successful year is 1970, with 24 dots; 1978 has a single dot; the period from 1981 to 1985 has none. Another canvas, “Twice Hammered,” depicts the pages of Christie’s Hong Kong 2005 auction, with two lots by Diao. Both pieces were estimated at $40,000 to $60,000, each sold for $7,000. Prices range from $12,000 to $100,000. The show runs through April 27 at 459 W. 19th St.; +1-212-727-3323; http://www.postmastersart.com.
West 22nd Street
Zach Harris’s inventive abstract paintings evoke fairytale landscapes, and motifs are echoed in the elaborately carved and painted wooden frames. Imagery includes geometric patterns on steroids and hints of plants and flowers. The frames complete each work and add a three-dimensional element. Prices range from $12,500 to $30,000. “Central Park in a No Vex Cave” is at Zach Feuer, 548 W. 22nd St., through May 4; +1-212-989-7700; http://www.zachfeuer.com.
West 24th Street
At first glance, Ben Durham’s graphite portraits could be mistaken for black-and-white photographs. Up close, you realize that the faces of young men and women are created by obsessive layering of text. In some cases, it looks like the artist carves the words into thick, richly textured, hand-made paper, building tension between the physicality of the act and the wispy sensation of the pencil. Each drawing is $25,000. “Portraits, Maps, Texts” is at Nicole Klagsbrun gallery, 532 W. 24th St., through May 18; +1-212-243-3335; http://nicoleklagsbrun.com.
West 27th Street
Kenny Scharf’s likable sculptures at Paul Kasmin Gallery are larger-than-life, cartoonish characters set on rotating platforms and painted with bright colors that allude to Pop Art. “Squirtz (Blue)” is a grinning, somewhat dopey-looking face on one side, a surprised expression on the other. “Red, Scary Guy” is a scowling, red creature. “Totemotiki” is a tower of alternating smiles and frowns. The show includes vibrant, almost monochrome paintings depicting the artist’s signature bubbly blobs. Prices range from $95,000 to $300,000. “Kolors” runs through May 4 at 515 W. 27th St.; +1-212-563-4474; http://www.paulkasmingallery.com.
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater, Greg Evans on TV.