April 24, 2024

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Richard Serra, who extensively reworked sculpture, has died at the age of 85

Richard Serra, who extensively reworked sculpture, has died at the age of 85

His mother, a Russian Jewish immigrant from Odessa, was devoted to reading and seeing her children succeed.

Mr. Serra had been drawing constantly from an early age—partly, he admitted, to compete for his parents' attention with his flamboyant older brother, the athlete Tony. His third-grade teacher was impressed by his drawings, so she asked his mother to take him to museums. I started introducing him to people as an artist.

Tony Serra became a lawyer known for his left-wing views, his pledge to poverty, and his defense of Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panthers, and members of the extremist group the Symbionese Liberation Army. (The two brothers did not speak for 25 years, but Richard Serra eventually helped pay for the college tuition of Tony's five children.)

After one year at the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. Serra transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara, which he remembers as a small and very competitive university, “with a lot of verbal sparring back and forth.” He took courses there with Margaret Mead, Aldous Huxley, and Christopher Isherwood and majored in English literature while studying art with the painters. Howard Warshaw And Rico Lebron.

He was planning to continue his literary studies in graduate school when Mr. Warshaw told him he should consider applying to art school. Mr. Serra sent a set of drawings to Yale University and won a scholarship. His colleagues there included Mr. Close, the painters Bryce Marden (who died in August) and W Rackstraw DownsAnd the sculptor Nancy Graves, who became his girlfriend. Among his teachers, he was particularly influenced by the painter Philip Guston and experimental composer Morton Feldman. He later described the large paintings he painted at Yale as “traditional to Pollock de Koonings.”

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A travel fellowship from Yale, followed by a Fulbright scholarship, allowed him to spend two years in Europe with Ms. Graves, who was also a Fulbright recipient. They married in 1964 in Paris, where they became friends with the composer Philip Glass. In Florence, Italy, after Velázquez's epiphany in Madrid, Mr. Serra began making sets that included stuffed and live animals in cages. His first solo exhibition, “Habitats of Living Animals,” was held at the Galleria La Salita in Rome in 1966.