I wanted to share my recent visit to the fabulous exhibit of David Smith sculptures at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Smith is considered the pre-eminent American sculptor of the 20th century. In the early 1930′s, he made the first welded steel sculptures done in the United States. Trained as a painter, he always said that he was trying to paint in steel. Many of his earlier constructions, before he started using steel, show the iconography and forms of Picasso, Gorky, Kandinsky,etc, his influences from painting.
Me, with some of his classic welded steel pieces. There is such a painterly feeling, even in these geometric pieces. You can almost feel the artist layering forms on a two dimensional canvas.
My New friend Hylan Booker and I discussing the exhibition. Hylan will be blogging about it soon for LACMA. Among other things, we were talking about how Smith worked as a welder, assembling locomtives and tanks, during WWll. Hylan sees Smith as the quintissential American artist emerging from that moment in time when we our at our zenith as a manufacturing and world power. His work in steel reflected the grandeur of our industrial power.Hylan sees Smith as the perfect embodiment of the “can do,” American spirit of the times. I completely agree.
David Smith was a in many ways a builder of bridges. He grew up as a painter drawn to organic, geometric forms that was part of the zeitgeist of the art world in the first third of the 20th century. He then translated those forms to sculpture, first in constructions, then to his ground breaking pieces of welded steel. His technique and aesthetic rode the tiger of America’s war time industrial surge, thrusting a new art form that mirrored, so closely, the culture of his time, on to the world stage. He was truly a man of his time and for his time.