Richard Serra was born 1939 inSan Francisco. He is an American minimalist sculptor and video artist, who is known for working with large scale assemblies of sheet metal. He focuses on the physical act of art making and helped thereby to change the nature of artistic production.
His father was a pipe fitter in a shipyard and he worked in steel mills to support himself during his time at university. These experiences are the major source of inspiration for his wok.
Already in 1966 Serra started to work with nontraditional materials such as fiberglass, rubber, neon and lead to create abstract sculptures. But he is best known for his minimalistic constructions made from large rolls and sheets of metal.
These constructions are usually self-supporting, what emphasizes the weight and nature of the material. They are site-specific and so represent a dialogue with a particular architectural, urban or landscape setting. He said once: To remove the work is to destroy it. His work is large-scaled what – like the cathedrals of the middle ages – dwarfs the observer. It challenges the viewer’s perception of the own body in relation to the interior, spaces and landscapes. It encourages movement and thereby includes time as a factor to the experience.
His work emphasizes the process of its fabrication, the characteristics of the material, and strives to engage with viewer and site. It accentuates the physical properties of the work. It relieves it from its symbolic role and frees it from its traditional pedestal. By doing so it creates a new relationship with the spectator, whose own experience of the object became crucial to its meaning
Serra is also known for his video and performance art. Since 1971 he also focuses on experimental, often large scale drawings for which he uses a (black) paint stick (something like a crayon). His images include a drawing of an Abu Ghraib prisoner with Stop Bush written underneath (it became the 2006 Whitney Biennial poster, but on that it reads Stop BS) and a variation of Goya’s Saturn Devouring his Son featuring George Bush’s head in place of Saturn’s.