the-matter-of-time-1994-2005

Richard Serra – 6 Interesting Facts

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Richard Serra is a sculptor known for his large-scale metal sculptures. He expanded the potential and experience of the medium by using space and proportion to alter his viewers’ perceptions. He is also known as a controversial figure, “as steely and uncompromising as his work”. To know more about this influential artist, here are the following facts:

1. He dabbled in other forms of art.

    • Serra’s first video art film features a hand attempting to catch various pieces of lead dropped from the top of the frame. It was appropriately titled “Hand Catching Lead”.
    • He collaborated in performances with music and contemporary dance artists such as Steve Reich, Joan Jonas, and Yvonne Rainer.

2. Serra began creating art as a painter.

    • He began a series of grids painted in random colors, but abandoned this technique after reading about another artist who painted with a similar style.
    • After viewing a painting in Spain, Serra realized that he did not like the two-dimensional property of the artform and found this limiting.
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A Richard Serra painting from the Greenpoint Rounds collection, Baldwin, 2009

3. His father’s work introduced him to steel.

    • Serra spent his childhood with his father who worked as a pipefitter at the shipyards.
    • His first inspiration for art was an oil tanker. He was fascinated by its buoyancy and speed despite its weight. He was also intrigued by the ship’s hull and its strong horizontal curve.
trip-hammer-1988
A balancing act–Trip Hammer, 1988

4. Space is a material in Serra’s art.

    • He creates and defines spaces through sculptural form. This changes the visual and physical relationship of the space with the viewer.
    • Serra’s installations invite the viewer to navigate the space around them and participate in their environment. This allows them to experience his works beyond the visual and “engage the viewer’s body relation to his thinking and walking and looking”.
view-point
Richard Serra’s View Point, one of many installations in the public space

5. He believes art should be for its own sake.

    • Serra rejects that art represents the artist’s emotions or intellect. Instead, he believes the materials represent themselves. His intention is to create a first-hand experience of space, weight, and gravity.
    • Though many urban planners and architects cite him as an inspiration, he also believes that true art is never utilitarian or functional. He said, “Any use is a misuse” and “I have never felt and don’t feel now that art needs any justification outside of itself.”
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The Matter of Time, 1994-2005 on display at the Museo de Bilbao

6. Serra’s most (in)famous work, “Tilted Arc,” caused public uproar.

    • It was installed in a busy New York plaza and consisted of a sheet of metal which measured 120 feet long and 12 feet high. It forced people to walk around the structure instead of moving directly across the plaza.
    • Workers in the area regarded “Tilted Arc” as an eyesore. This sparked international debate about the presence of modern art in public spaces. Serra wished to keep the structure in place, but the court ruled to have it dismantled.
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A recent portrait of Richard Serra

He may not share their philosophy, but Richard Serra remains to be an inspiration to many artists. He also influenced developers of public spaces and discourse on the presence of art in these places. Indeed he has a strong-willed personality, but it is with this same trait that he created art that is impossible to ignore.

What’s your favorite Richard Serra work? Do you consider his art as sculptures? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section!

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