Richard Serra, the ‘poet of iron,’ died at 85.

The famous American artist and sculptor Richard Serra, who turned curved walls of rusting steel and other flexible materials into large-scale outdoor artworks around the world, died Tuesday at his Long Island home. He was 85.

The San Francisco native studied painting at Yale University but switched to sculpture in the 1960s after traveling in Europe. His New York lawyer, John Silberman, confirmed his death Tuesday night

He blamed pneumonia for death. Serra, known as the “poet of iron,” was famous for his massive steel arcs, spirals, and ellipses. He was associated with 1970s minimalism.

n 1981, Serra constructed a 120-foot-long (36.5-meter) and 12-foot-high (3.6-meter) raw steel curving wall that split the Federal Plaza in New York City, attracting attention. Workers slammed the sculpture, “Tilted Arc,” and demanded its removal. The sculpture was ultimately removed, but Serra's New York art fame was confirmed.

Most of Serra's large-scale works are welded in Cor-Ten steel, but he also used rubber, latex, neon, and molten lead, which he threw on a wall or floor for his early “Splash” series

From New York's Museum of Modern Art to Qatar's deserts, his works are in landscapes and museums worldwide.

The Guggenheim Museum in Spain permanently installed eight Serra pieces in 2005. Carmen Jimenez, the exhibition organizer, called Serra “beyond doubt the most important living sculptor.”

Serra was the second of three sons born in San Francisco to a Russian-Jewish mother and a Spanish father. His father's pipefitting job at a shipyard motivated him to draw early on. Before sculpting, Serra worked in steel foundries to pay for his UC Berkeley and Santa Barbara studies. Later, he graduated from Yale in 1964.

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