US artist Richard Serra, known for enormous steel sculptures, dead at 85

Credit: REUTERS/Eloy Alonso

By Daniel Trotta

March 26 (Reuters) - American artist Richard Serra, whose enormous steel sculptures coated with a fine patina of rust decorated landscapes and dominated oversized galleries in the world's finest museums, died on Tuesday, the New York Times reported. He was 85.

The artist died at his home on New York's Long Island of pneumonia, the Times reported, citing his lawyer, John Silberman.

Born in San Francisco in 1938 to a Spanish father and Russian mother, Serra grew up visiting marine shipyards where his father worked and also labored in steel mills to support himself in his youth, according to his San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum biographies.

Despite the large scale of his works, artistically he was considered a minimalist, letting the dimensions of his art relative to the viewer, rather than elaborate imagery, make its point.

After studying at the University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University, he moved to New York in 1966 where he began making art from industrial materials such as metal, fiberglass and rubber.

Though he would later become quite popular, one of his 1981 works was so poorly received that it was removed from public view in Lower Manhattan, ARTnews said.

"Tilted Arc," a 120-foot (36-meter) bar of steel, is today "remembered as one of the most reviled works of public art in the city's history. It was ultimately taken away because people hated it so much," ARTnews said.

He made a breakthrough in 1969 when he was included in "Nine Young Artists: Theodoron Awards" at New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

After traveling to Spain to study Mozarabic architecture in the early 1980s, his work gained renown in Europe and with solo exhibitions at major museums in Germany and France.

Serra's work was especially appreciated in his father's native Spain, where the Reina Sofia museum offered a 1992 retrospective of his work and he had an exhibit dedicated exclusively to his work at the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.

A 2002 New Yorker magazine profile entitled "Man of Steel" described him as a "stocky, powerful-looking man with a large head, a fringe of close-cropped gray hair, and black eyes whose intense stare reminds you of Picasso's."

That same piece told of Serra's self-realization that he was not a painter, after seeing Diego Velazquez's 1656 work "Las Meninas" in the Prado museum in Madrid.

"It pretty much stopped me," Serra said. "Cezanne hadn't stopped me, de Kooning and Pollack hadn't stopped me, but Velazquez seemed like a bigger thing to deal with. That sort of nailed the coffin on painting for me."

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Mary Milliken and Lincoln Feast.)

((daniel.trotta@reuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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