Richard Serra, abstract sculptor, passed away at 85

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Richard Serra

Richard Serra, an artist known for his abstract large-scale sculptures, passed away at the age of 85.

“To make sculpture means a life-long commitment, that’s what it means. It means to follow the direction of the work that I opened myself and to try to make the most abstract proposals inside of it. To develop my own work and incorporate what is necessary to keep it being open and vital.”

-Richard Serra

Born in San Francisco in 1938, he studied English literature at the University of California, Berkeley, before transferring to the University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduating in 1961 with a BA in English Literature. Also, he studied painting at Yale University. He was awarded a one-year traveling fellowship and a Fulbright Grant. During that time, he visited many European cities, such as Paris, Florence, and Madrid. While still in Europe, Serra started experimenting with nontraditional sculptural materials. He held his first solo show, “Animal Habitats,” at Galleria Salita, Rome.

Richard Serra

Richard Serra’s early career was characterized by experimentation with unconventional materials like rubber, latex, fiberglass, neon, and lead. Upon returning to New York City in 1966, he created works such as Belt Pieces and Belts, combining neon with rubber strips, influenced by abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.

Transitioning to site-specific outdoor sculptures, his visit to Japan in 1970 inspired his exploration of Zen gardens and landscapes as total experiences. Notable works include To Encircle Base Plate in Tokyo’s Ueno Park and Pulitzer Piece in Missouri. Throughout the 1970s, he continued creating outdoor sculptures, such as Shift in Canada, focusing on the topology of landscape and the viewer’s interaction with space and time. His landscape works expanded globally, including installations in Denmark, Iceland, and New Zealand.

The Matter of Time

In gallery settings, Serra’s focus shifted to large-scale steel sculptures like Berlin Block and Torqued Ellipses, exploring themes of balance and proportion. Monumental installations like “The Matter of Time” at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, highlighted his evolution in sculptural forms.

He is well known for his site-specific urban artworks focusing on the sculpture. They urge the visitor to stroll inside, pass through, and move about them because their settings are frequently more open to the public than those of the landscape works.

Richard Serra has also participated in several gallery and museum shows. His site-specific gallery installations serve as thought experiments on occasion.

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