Known as the sculptor who drew with metal, David Smith made paintings and drawings throughout his life. Dedicated to the dialogue between two and three dimensions, Smith aimed to convey the same free movement of forms in sculpture, as in painting. The artist considered drawing and painting the most direct, unmediated form of expression, flowing, as it were, uncontained from pencil to paper, brush to canvas. Highlighting Smith’s radical approach to line, space, and mass, as well as his merging of forms from nature and industry, ‘Untitled’ (1934) toys view a viewer’s expectations.
While Smith’s early paintings show his absorption of the visual language of European Modernism, they also trace his development as an artist and the gradual realization of a personal style that incorporated the visual syntax of his own, fundamentally American, experience. It is central to an understanding of Smith’s oeuvre that he continued to think of himself as a painter throughout his practice. It is this interdependence of sculpture and painting that enriches the viewer’s reception of Smith’s work, emphasizing the artist’s conviction that every facet of his visual output represented an essential element of his total artistic vision.
One of the foremost artists of the twentieth century and the sculptor most closely linked to the Abstract Expressionist movement, David Smith is known for his use of industrial methods and materials, and the integration of open space into sculpture. Over a 33-year career, Smith greatly expanded the notion of what sculpture could be, questioning its relationship with the space it was created in and its final habitat; from the artist’s atelier and art foundry into the realms of industry and nature. Spanning pure abstraction and poetic figuration, Smith’s deeply humanist vision has inspired generations of sculptors for the decades since his death.
© 2019 The Estate of David Smith / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Courtesy the Estate