Known for his monumental, sheet metal sculptures, Richard Serra is one of the preeminent sculptors of the 20th century. His Minimalist work emphasizes or alters viewers’ perceptions of space and proportion.
Born in San Francisco in 1938, Serra studied English literature at the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Barbara from 1957 to 1961. While there, he worked in steel mills to support himself, an experience that informed his later work with raw, industrial materials. From 1961 until 1964, Serra studied as a painter at Yale University, before traveling to Paris, where he frequently visited the reconstruction of Constantin Brancusi’s studio, as well as the café, La Coupole, where he longed to meet his artistic hero, Alberto Giacometti. After traveling around Europe and North Africa, Serra moved to New York in 1966, and it was here that he met and became friends with Minimalist artists including Carl Andre, Walter de Maria, Eva Hesse, and Sol LeWitt.
It was at this time that Serra made his first sculptures out of industrial materials. Using fiberglass, molten lead, rubber, or timber, he created abstract, process-based works by ‘hurling,’ ‘rolling,’ or ‘propping’ the materials within his studio or the gallery space. In 1970, Serra began creating large, site-specific sculpture made most frequently from sheets of oxidized steel to stand outside. These developed into arcs, spirals, or ellipses of metal arranged in often labyrinthine or geometric plans. Monumental and imposing, these installations dwarf the viewer, challenging their relationship both to the work itself, and to the landscape that surrounds them.
Serra has been honored with a number of solo exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007), and his private and public commissions can be found across the world. Examples of his large-scale installations can be seen in the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (The Matter of Time, 2005); Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Storm King Art Center, New York, as well as in cities including San Francisco, California, Doha, Qatar, and Bordeaux, France. His work can also be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Art, among many others.
Today Richard Serra works in both New York City and on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.