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FCG International Plastic Arts Award 2005: RICHARD SERRA

"For his lifelong artistic trajectory, his capacity to renew contemporary sculpture, making the spectator part of the sculptural space and provoking his/her emotions.  His work creates a dialogue and a confrontation with the archirtecture of which his recent monumental intervention is an example, “The Material of Time”, in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Spaint)”. According to the jury that met in Valladolid on June 13, 2005, chaired by Mr. Marcos–Ricardo Barnatán Hodari, Writer and Art Critic of El Mundo; and made up by the following members; Mr. Miguel Ángel García Rodríguez; Editor of Channel 2 News, Ms. Catalina Luca de Tena y García Conde, President and Editor of ABC Newspaper; Mr. Rafael Sierra Villaécija; Deputy Editor of Descubrir el Arte and Mr. Francisco Somoza Rodríguez-Escudero; Architec.



This American sculptor is famous for his minimalist works and his sculptures created for specific places, as well as for the strange processes he uses to elaborate them, using industrial materials such as lead, steel and concrete. 

 Richard Serra was born in San Francisco on 2nd Novembrer 1939 and studied at the University of California (1957-1961), from which he graduated with a Degree in English, and at Yale University (1961-1964), from which he graduated with a Degree in Fine Arts. During the two years following his university studies, he received training in Paris and Italy and later settled in New York.  While doing artistic work he simulatneously worked part-time at a steel mill to finance his studies.

Considered one of the most outstanding sculptors of the 20th Century, Richard Serra is famous for the innovating and challenging character of his work that underlines the fabrication process, the characteristics of the materials he uses and his dedication to the spectator and to the site.  At the outset of his career, at the beginning of the 1960s, Serra participated in the changes that artistic production were experimenting.  Along with other minimalist artists of his generation, Serra resorted to non-conventional industrial materials and they started to highlight the physical properties of works.  Released from its symbolic role and freed from its traditional base or pedestal and participating in the real space of the spectator, sculpture establishes a new relationship with the spectator, whose phenomenological experience becomes essential to its meaning.  Spectators were encouraged to walk around, –and sometimes on top-  inside or through the piece and to live it from multiple perspectives.  Over the years, Serra has deepened in this space and time focus of sculpture, activating and engaging this field of space between subject and object.  During the last two decades, he has mainly undertaken largescale works planned for specific places that create a dialogue with a unique archictectural setting -an urban area or a landscape- and on doing so he redifines that space and the perception the spectator has of it.  In the exhibition entitled Torqued Ellipses, Serra presented the most recent reflections made by Serra on the physicalities of space and the nature of sculpture.


Going back in time, among his first works we can find a series of montages made in neon and rubber.  In Belts (1966-1967, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York), the raw radiance of the neon tubes contrasts with the gentle liflelessness of the vulcanized rubber strips suspended in sequential groups along the wall.  The importance he then gave to the physical nature of materials and to their gravitational weight would later characterize and inspire a great amount of his work.  Between 1968 and 1969 he compiled a list of verbs (empty, fold, splash) that could be associated with the process of sculpting.  From that list he made nearly 100 lead sculptures.  Splashing (1969), was created in a warehouse of the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York throwing melted lead against a wall and floor so that the metal would hit them before solidifying.  In the 1970s, he created an even more monumental piece using hot steel to create indoor and outdoor sculptures of great dimensions, the size and simplicity of which gave them an impressive presence.  One of the most spectacular sculptures created by Serra for a specific place is his “Tilted Arc” (1981), which was ordered for the Federal Plaza in Nueva York.   The enormous horizontal arc of which the piece is made is almost 4 metres in height and more than 36 metres long.  Serra has also worked in cinema.  At the end of 1960, he shot a series of films, among which Hand Catching Lead and Hands Tied stand out, both made in 1968, and which focus on the carrying out of simple tasks which are repeated to the point of satiation.  They present a parallelism between the films of Andy Warhol, in which the camera slowly focuses on a single object, and the whole process which is an essetial part of the the scultptural work of Serra.


From the 8th June last, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is exhibiting “The Matter of Time”, a collection of seven spirals, the dimension of which exceeds 130 metres and which are made up of thousands of tons of steel.  “The Matter of Time” has deserved to be the front cover of the New York Times Magazine and has received the positive criticism of the expert Michael Kimmelman.


In his article Kimmelman points out the following:


“Testifying to the extraordinary nature of art, with its moving-target quality, Mr. Serra's recent works, which evolve right out of "Tilted Arc," elaborating on its concept of a curved, space-enclosing slab of steel, have become stupendously popular.”

“Not just drama in the sense that the sculptures are striking, but also in the sense that they entail time, sound, movement, change. These are terms of theater or cinema. Mr. Serra's work is abstract, but it unfolds like a play or film. It withholds and controls disclosure. Its climaxes (the concealed interiors of each sculpture) are surprise endings. The work presses attributes of the temporal arts into the service of static forms.”