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Beverly Pepper obituary: Sculptor whose works in metal, both vast and more delicate, were inspired by ancient civilizations

Beverly Pepper with sculptures in the Curvae series installed in front of the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome in 2014. Photograph: Domenico Stinellis/AP.

In 1962, when Beverly Pepper was invited to take part in an artist residency at a metalworking factory in the Italian town of Piombino, they asked if she could weld. “Of course,” she lied, quickly seeking out a local handyman to teach her the basics. That crash-course led to a six-decade career in which metal became the American artist’s primary material.

As well as iron and bronze, Pepper, who has died aged 97, was the first to use Cor-ten steel (which weathers attractively outdoors) in art, before more famous male peers such as Donald Judd and Richard Serra. She employed these industrial materials on a range of scales, from vast land art projects to delicate, plinth-based sculpture. Curvae, a 2012 series of steel works, each over a meter in height, is typical in how the red-brown weathered surface of the material blends with the landscape. The connection to nature is reinforced as each piece of metal curls off the ground like a dropped leaf.

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