Richard Serra (b.1939 )

Richard Serra is best known for his use of industrial materials found in ship and scrap yards. Serra was born in San Francisco in 1939. He studied at the University of California at Berkeley. He also studied at Santa Barbara and graduated in 1961 with a bachelors degree in English literature. While attending school he worked in nearby steel mills in order to have enough money to get by. In the steel mills he learned the knowledge he needed to bend and mold his metal sculptures. Serra also graduated from Yale University with a bachelors degree and a masters degree in fine art.(1) He then studied in Paris for a year and in Florence for a year.

Soon after this Serra began making sculptures that involved making casts from lead. He stunned the world with his enormous minimalist sculptures, which from far away look like large sheets of rusted lead. Serra created a series called the “Torqued Ellipses,” which show his raw aggression and his use of extremely large lead casts. (DJS)



(2)Gallery of Contemporary Art: http://www.hamburger-kunsthalle.ed/seiten/en_serra.htm

The Hedgehog and the Fox

The Hedgehog and the Fox, c.1998, Princeton University, Gift of Peter Joseph. Photograph courtesy The Princeton Packet, Inc./Frank Wojciechowski. Used with permission. (See first link, below.)

One of Richard Serra’s minimalist sculptures is The Hedgehog and the Fox, which is owned and located at Princeton University. Serra has specialized in steel and lead sculptures for most of his career. The style he uses is called Minimalism; it is a type of art in which objects are stripped down to their elemental, geometric forms and presented in an impersonal manner.(1) Minimalism “is considered an Abstract form of art which developed as a reaction against the subjective elements of Abstract Expressionism."(2)

The Hedgehog and the Fox is an enormous sculpture that consists of three huge rusty steel ribbons bent almost into an S-shape. “The name of the sculpture, The Hedgehog and the Fox, refers to an essay by Isaiah Berlin, who quoted from the Greek poet Archilochus: 'The fox knows of many things but the hedgehog knows one great thing.'" According to Serra, "The quote explains how scholars either become free thinkers and invent or become subjugated to the dictates of history.”(3)

From afar it may seem that someone at Princeton University has left pieces of metal scattered on the ground and forgotten about them. When you come closer, you begin to admire the beauty of the piece. When you come face to face with the sculpture in person, you feel compelled to walk through it and marvel at its size. The work is one of Serra's “Torqued Ellipses” (1996-1999), which are comprised of gigantic plates of towering steel, bent and curved, leaning in and out. These seem to carve very private small spaces out of the large public sites where they have been erected. (DJS)


(1)Princeton University Office of Communications web site (see link below).

(2) web site.

(3)Artcyclopedia web site (see link below).

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