New York and Nova Scotia-based American Minimalist artist Richard Serra is best known for his large, site-specific steel sculptures. These monumental Minimalist constructions, typically comprised of self-supporting, shaped and angled corten steel plates, can be found in art institutions and public spaces across the globe—from France to New Zealand. His work, spanning a more-than-50-year career, challenges sculptural conventions of scale, material, and subject matter, while forcing the viewer to reflect on their perceptions of gravity, bodily alignment, and planar space. Serra also produces dark drawings of ink, paint and oil stick on paper and canvas, and prints. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he also made experimental films and videos.Read More
Working towards a BA in English literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Serra developed an early interest in industrial materials while working in steel mills. Studying for a BFA and MFA at Yale from 1961 to 1964, he came under the influence of Philip Guston, Josef Albers, and Morton Feldman, and interacted with other ground-breaking artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, and Frank Stella. This—and two consecutive trips to Europe in 1965 and 1966—undoubtedly influenced the Minimalist nature of his work.
Serra's first solo exhibition was at Galleria La Salita, Rome, in 1966, towards the end of a European tour funded by a Fulbright grant. His first sculptures from the mid-1960s were made out of rubber, fibreglass, and other non-traditional materials. However, the earliest works with the industrial metals he is known for came in the form of the process-based series 'Splash' (1968–1970), where the artist hurled molten lead at the points in gallery spaces where the walls meet the floors, where it cooled to create new forms. Serra's performance of this work during his exhibition at the Leo Castelli Warehouse in 1969 marked his official debut in the New York art scene.
Serra's 'Prop' pieces in the late 1960s, in which rolls of lead and sheets of other metals were arranged in configurations held together only by gravity, were precursors to the increasingly large-scale public work that developed when in the 1970s he turned his attention outdoors.
Moving out of the gallery space Serra began creating monumental sculptures in the form of long, curving, horizontal or tall, and seemingly precarious (but partially buried) continuous steel sheets. Serra's works from the 1970s onward responded to, but jarringly altered, the landscapes and urban public places in which they were installed.
In the 1980s, as Serra's large-scale works were being taken to new heights and becoming commonplace across Europe, he encountered controversy in the United States with the installation of Tilted Arc (1981), a 3.7-metre-high, rusted corten steel arc crossing New York's Foley Federal Plaza. Disputes between the civic authorities, the public, and the artist resulted in its dismantlement in 1989, and carried on after. Since the early 1990s, Serra's work has taken new forms such as the open-but-enveloping 'Torqued Ellipse', and solid steel 'Rounds'.
Serra continues to show his drawings and monumental sculptural installations in galleries around the world. Gagosian, which has represented the artist for 30 years, has chosen gallery spaces with Serra's preferred scale in mind. Several museums—from the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—permanently exhibit his large-scale sculptures.
Serra's distinctive works have been celebrated with two retrospectives at The Museum of Modern Art, New York—Richard Serra/sculpture (1986) and Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years (2007). The artist has also received a great many accolades and medals, including the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 2001 Venice Biennale, a knighthood in the National Order of the Legion of Honour in France (2015), and the J. Paul Getty Medal (2018).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019
The model for the work was created through erosion, leaving a form that Sze recreated in highly-polished steel.
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Most of Serra 's early film work focuses on tasks in short bursts: a hand catches lead, two hands untie themselves from a rope bind, two pairs of hands pick up lead filings, Tina turns. The length of time it takes to complete a task is based on elements that are hard to quantify but solid enough that one can expect an endpoint (two or three...
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