David Smith: Cubes & Anarchy

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.

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19 Comments on "David Smith: Cubes & Anarchy"

  1. each one is a graceful dance. these are beautiful

  2. David Leeds says:

    I agree. he’s a real maestro.

  3. Kathy says:

    A great overview of an overwhelming fantastic retrospective. Seeing so many of his sculptures, paintings, drawing, and sketchbooks together was amazing. Highly recommend to anyone who can see it and the building that houses it is perfect.

  4. I really enjoyed this blogpost on David Smith’s sculptures. I will definitely get over to LACMA to see them. They are amazing and I loved your commentary on them and their painterly qualities. Thanks for bringing this artist to our attention!

  5. David Leeds says:

    My pleasure, Sunday. Ditto your post on Ciao Domenica

  6. kevin rea says:

    A worthy benificiary and standard bearer of the vison of Mondrian and Brancusi giving rise to minimalism and it’s progeny. Words are inadequate, a national treasure, kudos to my hometown, however, I had the whole gallery to myself while people lined up to get into the Tim Burton (a fan) exhibit or que up to the new cafe and drown out Dwight Trible. We have a way to go.

  7. David Leeds says:

    That new gallery space it was in, is incredible, isn’t it!
    When I went, a random week day, there was one large group and about ten other individuals. I’d love to see a show of big abstract expressionist paintings in that space.

  8. Cynthia Cannady says:

    I want to go see this now. I particularly like the red one at the top of the images on the husk of meaning site. And I appreciate the background on Smith. His American-ness. But why “anarchy”. It seems so orderly to me, settling, composed.

  9. Ralf Jones says:

    That’s was amazing though, art welding, I am also a welder and I really admire David’s works. I would like to know about his other projects or how to complete things like this.

  10. Jason Moyer says:

    Looks absolutely amazing. Not sure when and where is David next exhibit. I would like to see it in person.

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Sculptor, painter, poet. Currently living in Los Angeles and Martha's Vineyard