DAVID SMITH (1906-1965)
ProvenanceEstate of David Smith, New York
Hauser & Wirth
ExhibitionKunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, ‘David Smith: Skulptureen, Zeichnungen [David Smith: Sculpture and Drawings]’
Dusseldorf/DE, March 14 – April 27, 1986 (travelled to: Städtische Galerie im Stäelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt/DE, June 19 – September 28, 1986: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London/UK, November 7, 1986 – January 4, 1987)
Hauser & Wirth New York, ‘David Smith: Origins & Innovations’, New York NY, November 13 – December 23, 2017
LiteratureGalerie Hans Strelow, David Smith, Die reifen Jahre 1951-1965. Skulpturen und Zeichnungen’, Dusseldorf/DE: Galerie Hans Strelow, 1986, no. 51 (exh. cat.)
When David Smith set up a workshop on the Brooklyn Navy Pier in 1933 to learn direct-metal techniques, he shared the space not with artists, but with professional welders. Yet as he stated in 1964, ‘…all my early friends were painters…I never conceived of myself as anything other than a painter because my work came straight through the raised surface.’
Picasso and Cubism would be dominant influences in Smith’s work. He understood that Picasso imagined the world as a sculptor might, and not necessarily limited to the unavoidable impact of Cubism. In addition to pursuing a kind of rethinking of the world in three-dimensionality on his own terms, by the late 1920s, Picasso had shown interest in surrealism. That meant drawing not as a depiction of reality, but rather as a reconfiguration of the body in an assemblage of often precariously balanced, interconnected forms — some expressed in a three-dimensional form, others as drawings or paintings.
Those processes are reflected in this work by David Smith; three fanciful totemic assemblages set within a landscape perspective of ground, mountains, and sky and whose presence is surreal enough to cast shadows under a presumed solar presence. Untitled, 1936 embraces surrealism, yet also serves to demonstrate the extent to which his thought processes are inextricably linked to sculpture and related to scale, spatial orientation, and three-dimensionality. With that in mind, it is not surprising to know that Smith saw no demarcation between sculpture and painting, or that a painting such as Untitled (1936) can exist outside of planning or design for future three-dimensional work.
David Smith, c. 1942David Smith miscellaneous papers, [ca. 1940]-1964. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Smith at his workshop in Terminal Iron Works, Brooklyn, c. 1957
Smith, "Head with Cogs for Eyes," 1933Ryda and Robert H. Levi Collection, Gift under the Will of Ryda H. Levi, Baltimore Museum of Art
Picasso, "An anatomy: Three Women," 1930Included in the 2016 MOMA exhibition “Picasso Sculpture.”