Richard Serra, famed for his massive steel sculptures, has passed away at the age of 85

Renowned American artist Richard Serra, known for his massive steel sculptures that feature a delicate rust patina and grace landscapes and large galleries in prestigious museums worldwide, passed away on Tuesday, as reported by the New York Times. He was 85 years old.

Serra passed away from pneumonia at his residence on Long Island, New York, according to the Times, which cited his attorney, John Silberman, for the information.

Serra was born in 1938 in San Francisco to a Spanish father and a Russian mother. He spent his childhood visiting the marine shipyards where his father was employed and worked in steel mills during his younger years to support himself, his biographies at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum reveal.

Despite the expansive size of his creations, he was artistically recognized as a minimalist. He allowed the scale of his artwork, in relation to the observer, to convey its message, rather than relying on intricate visuals. Following his education at the University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University, he relocated to New York in 1966. It was there that he started to craft art using industrial components like metal, fiberglass, and rubber.

In 1969, he achieved a significant milestone by being featured in “Nine Young Artists: Theodoron Awards” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Following a trip to Spain in the early 1980s to explore Mozarabic architecture, his work received widespread recognition in Europe, leading to solo exhibitions at prominent museums in Germany and France.

Serra’s contributions were particularly celebrated in Spain, the homeland of his father. There, his art was honored with a retrospective at the Reina Sofia museum in 1992, and the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, hosted an exhibition solely dedicated to his creations. A profile in the New Yorker magazine from 2002, titled “Man of Steel,” portrayed him as a robust, imposing figure with a broad head, a rim of tightly trimmed gray hair, and piercing black eyes that evoke the memorable gaze of Picasso.

The article also recounted how Serra came to understand that painting was not his calling after encountering Diego Velazquez’s 1656 masterpiece “Las Meninas” at the Prado Museum in Madrid. “It pretty much halted me in my tracks,” Serra remarked. “Cezanne, de Kooning, and Pollack hadn’t deterred me, but Velazquez presented a more formidable challenge. It was that experience that definitively ended my pursuit of painting.”