Heavy Metal: The Art of Richard Serra

SFARTS and Art21's continued partnership explores the influence of Bay Area artists, this month featuring artist Richard Serra.

A giant of the contemporary art world, Richard Serra was born in San Francisco in 1938. Serra worked with metal for over forty years and created sculptures that shape and stretch steel like rubber, carving intimate moments out of public spaces.

The first artist interview conducted by Susan Sollins, founder of Art21, was with Richard Serra and was featured in the inaugural episode of "Art in the Twenty-First Century," titled “Place,” in 2001.

“For the most part, work comes out of work in terms of how I develop an idea. I never begin with an image and I never begin with a drawing. I usually begin with a model,” said the artist on Art21. “It’s a way of working from the inside out. I never think in terms of metaphor, nor do I think in terms of what the image is going to look like beforehand, What concerns me is the relationship of the elements that I happen to find interesting at that point.”

In the Art21 Extended Play film “Richard Serra: Tools & Strategies,” filmed in 2000 at Richard Serra’s Manhattan studio, the artist describes the various tools and conceptual strategies he has used throughout his career when working with lead and steel. 

Richard Serra passed away on March 26, 2024 at age 85. His work is currently on view at various southern California locations, including in SFMOMA’s collection

Learn more about Art21 at art21.org and across social media at @art21.

Main image: Production still from the "Art in the Twenty-First Century" Season 1 episode, "Place," 2001. © Art21, Inc. 2001.

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