Occupation: Sculpure, Video Art
Movement: Process Art
“One Ton Prop,” 1969
“Intersection II,” 1993
“Torqued EllipseIV,” 1998
“Charlie Brown,” 2000
Richard Serra is an American video artist and sculptor, best known for his large-scale, site-specific compositions in sheet metal. He was once a member of the Process Art movement and his work is defined by a minimalist sensibility.
Richard Serra was born in San Francisco in the winter of 1939, the middle son of Tony and Gladys Serra, who were of Spanish and Russian descent respectively. As a child, he remained considerably aloof from the outside world and had little exposure to literature or art. It was only when he accompanied his father to his workplace at the shipyards that he began developing a sense for visual design, admiring the curves and weight of oil tankers that contradictorily moved with speed and levity. It triggered in him the desire to draw and invent, activities that he pursued with diligence through adolescent years.
In 1961, Serra left the University of California in Santa Barbara with a BA in English literature. Through his student years, he had supported himself by serving as a laborer at a steel mill and thus gained the firsthand knowledge of metal construction that would inform his later work. He was accepted into the painting program at Yale University, where he was taught alongside Chuck Close and Brice Marden amongst others. He traveled to Paris in subsequent years and spent a considerable period of time practicing his art near a reconstruction of the Constantin Brancusi’s atelier, an influence that is apparent in his mature style. In 1964, he was granted the Fulbright Scholarship and moved to Rome with his wife, sculptor Nancy Graves.
During a brief trip to Spain in 1966, Serra realized that he was discontented with the two-dimensional nature of paintings and began developing ideas for public installations. He mounted a solo show at the Galleria La Salita in Rome later that year with live animals placed in cages, causing enough of an uproar for the police to close the venue. Upon his return to the United States, he settled in New York and began experimenting with various media, actions and environment, resulting in the “gutter series” in which the artist hurled molten lead at the meeting point between floor and wall.
After completing work on the “Prop” series in 1969, Serra collaborated with Robert Smithson on the execution of the project “Spiral Jetty” and became increasingly interested in site-specific artwork. His own installations grew in size, dwarfing viewers in order to trigger questions of how the human body interacts with the environments it encounters. His residency in New York broadened his oeuvre substantially, with dedicated experimentation with video art, music and dance. He participated in several mixed-media projects with performers such as Joan Jones, Yvonne Rainer and Stephen Reich.
Shortly after his wedding to Clara Weyergraf in 1981, Serra experienced a strong negative reaction to his site-specific installation, “Tilted Arc,” which was placed in front of the Javits Building in Manhattan. The work produced an outcry from those who encountered it on their way to offices, citing it as little more than an eyesore. The protests resulted in the case being taken to civil court and, despite appeals, the piece was dismantled and removed at the end of the decade.
Serra has remained an integral and active part of the international art scene well into the new millennium. He appeared as Hiram Abiff in Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster 3” in 2002 and, in the winter of 2011, completed a commission from the Qatar Museums Authority for an 80-foot sculpture in Doha. He was honored with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2007, a year after his induction into the National Academy of Design. He currently divides his time between his homes in Tribeca and Nova Scotia.
1939 - Born in San Francisco
1957 - Enrolls at the Univdrsity of California, Berkeley
1964 - Receives his MA from Yale University, wins a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to France and Italy
1965 - Marries Nancy Graves
1970 - Separates from Nancy Graves
1975 - Wins the Skowhegan Sculpture Prize
1981 - Marries Clara Weyergraf
1994 - Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
2011 - Moves to a new home in Tribeca
1966 - Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York
1971 - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
1974 - Museo de Arte Moderna, Bogota
1980 - Hudson River Museum, Yonkers
1985 - Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo
1990 - Whitney Museum of Art, New York
1994 - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1998 - Gagosian Gallery, New York
2008 - Grand Palais, Paris
2011 - Retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2013 - Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Art Institute of Chicago
Colby College Museum of Art, Maine
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Tate Gallery, London
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht
Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid
“Richard Serra,” by Alfred Pacquement and Richard Serra
“Richard Serra: Vertical and Horizontal Reversals,” by Gordon Hughes and Richard Serra
“Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective,” by Michelle White and Bernice Rose
“Richard Serra 2014,” by Neil Cox
“Richard Serra: Early Work,” by Hal Foster and David Frankel