David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy
Audio Guide Playlist

Art historian and David Smith biographer Michael Brenson, art historian Sarah Hamill, sculptor Charles Ray, and Peter Stevens, director of the David Smith Estate discuss a selection of works from the exhibition David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy. The audio guide also includes commentary by sculptor David Smith.

SARAH HAMILL: In this photograph, Smith has pictured a number of his different Voltri‑Bolton works outside his sculpture studio. You can see the sculpture studio; it's the cinder block structure off to the right.

NARRATOR: The title of these works—Voltri-Bolton—joins two place names. Smith had an artist’s residency in Voltri, Italy in 1962. While there he collected steel scrap from abandoned factories and sent it back home. A year later, he combined these materials with metal that he found in Bolton Landing. Sarah Hamill.

SARAH HAMILL: So what we're looking at, then, are a number of different works that were made from these parts. And one of the things I think the photograph is doing is suggesting that they be read almost as human things. They are kind of positioned as a group waiting outside the sculpture studio, but they're also forming an overlapping series of shapes. 

Smith often used this area of his studio to store different steel parts, and in fact we can see some of these on the right‑hand side of the photograph just under the snow. . . So it's interesting that he's photographing these Voltri‑Bolton works right where he keeps and stores his material for future sculptures.

It's unclear whether he wants us to view these works as anthropomorphic, as being quasi‑human things standing outside this studio, or if he wants us to read them as pieces of metal that are all kind of cobbled together in this great heap. The photograph is a little bit ambiguous about which way he wants us to go, whether figural or material. The photograph suggests something in between.

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