Richard Serra, US | b. 1939
[from Aspen 8]
2 November 1939) is an American minimalist sculptor known for working with large scale assemblies of sheet metal.
Serra was born in San Francisco and he went on to study English literature at the University of California, Berkeley and later at the University of California, Santa Barbara between 1957 and 1961. He then studied fine art at Yale University between 1961 and 1964. While on the west coast, he helped support himself by working in steel mills which was to have a strong influence on his later work.
Serra's earliest work was abstract expressionist made from molten lead hurled in large splashes against the wall of the studio. Still, he is better known for his minimalist constructions from large rolls and sheets of metal. Usually, the pieces are self supporting and emphasise the weight and nature of the materials. Rolls of lead are designed to sag over time. His exterior steel sculptures have a patina of rust developing with age. Serra often works on site specific installations, frequently on a scale that dwarfs the observer.
Serra was one of the first artists to have a public work of art physically rejected by the public. In 1981, Serra installed Tilted Arc, a gently curved, 3.5 metre high arc of rusting mild steel in the Federal Plaza in New York City. There was controversy over the installation from day one, largely from workers in the buildings surrounding the plaza who complained that the steel wall obstructed passage through the plaza. A public hearing in 1985 voted that the work should be moved, but Serra argued the sculpture was site specific and could not be placed anywhere else. Eventually on 15 March 1989, the sculpture was dismantled by federal workers and taken for scrap. William Gaddis satirized these events in his biting 1994 novel A Frolic of His Own.
Another famous work of Serra's is the mammoth sculpture Snake, a trio of sinuous steel sheets creating a curving path, permanently located in the largest gallery of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. In 2005, the museum mounted an exhibition of more of Serra's work.
He has not always fared so well in Spain, however; in 2005, the Centro de Arte Reina Sof’a in Madrid announced that a 38-tonne sculpture of his had been "mislaid." (BBC) Torqued Ellipses, 1997 at the Dia Center Enlarge Torqued Ellipses, 1997 at the Dia Center
In spring 2005, Serra returned to San Francisco to install his first public work in that city (previous negotiations for a commission fell through) - two 50 foot steel blades in the main open space of the new UCSF campus. Weighing 160 tons, placing the work in its Mission Bay location posed serious challenges as it is, like many parts of San Francisco, built on landfill. At the Whitney Biennial, a work of his is featured; a simple crayon drawing of an Abu Ghraib prisoner with the caption "STOP BUSH."
He is the brother of famed San Francisco trial attorney Tony Serra.
Richar Serra in UbuWeb Films