David Smith with Australia, Bolton Landing, New York, ca. 1951.
Photo by David Smith, ©2006 The Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York.
ON SPLASH PAGE:
David Smith, Cubi I, 1963.
Stainless steel, 124 x 34 1/2 x 33 1/2 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Special Purchase Fund, Photograph by David Smith, © The Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York.
If you ask why I make sculpture, I must answer that it is my way of life, my balance, and my justification for being. —David Smith
Widely considered the greatest sculptor of his generation, David Smith
(1906–1965) created some of the most iconic works of the 20th
century. Marked by the use of industrial materials, especially welded
metals, and the integration of open space, Smith’s three-dimensional
version of Abstract Expressionism revolutionized the art of sculpture
in the U.S. and around the world. Organized on the 100th anniversary
of the artist’s birth, David Smith: A Centennial presents
over 120 of his greatest sculptures, as well as a selection of his
drawings and sketchbooks, from his entire 33-year career as a sculptor.
Considering his art as a totality, the exhibition provides audiences
with a singular opportunity to understand the complexity of Smith’s
aesthetic concerns as well as his impact on the course of modern and
contemporary sculpture.In addition to bringing together the masterpieces
of Smith’s mature period in the 1950s and 60s, the exhibition
gives special emphasis to his connection with his European forebears.
In his early works, Smith introduced into the idioms of American sculpture
the models pioneered during the 1920s by Pablo Picasso, Julio González,
Alberto Giacometti and the Russian Constructivists. Most importantly
Smith took up the Cubist mode of “drawing in space,” welding
sheets and rods of metal—often industrial discards—into
an abstract open network of forms. This collage aesthetic, combined
with the influence of Surrealism, led Smith, like his contemporaries
in the world of painting, to formulate a new mode of expressionism
amid the turbulent context of the World War II and its aftermath.
Even at its most literal, Smith’s symbolism only hinted at the
inner workings of his psyche, keeping full meaning veiled. In the
1950s, as he streamlined his aesthetic and his sculptures became more
abstract, Smith continued to assert that his sculpture was a pure
expression of his identity. He grew increasingly ambitious during
the 1960s, creating works of monumental scale that were often painted
in bright colors. When Smith died suddenly in a tragic car accident
in 1965, he was at the height of his creative powers, and he left
behind an expansive yet remarkably coherent, and extraordinarily powerful,
body of work.