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.

NARRATOR: Cubi V is eight feet tall, and composed entirely of steel boxes that were fabricated to Smith’s specifications. But the sculpture doesn’t feel coldly industrial or unapproachably large. Energy spins out from its central square, and comes to a kind of exclamation point in the box that tips off-axis. It’s a lyrical, playful balancing act—one that echoes the joyful motion of the human body. We are focusing today on Smith’s use of geometry. Some artists who emphasized geometric form wished to achieve pure abstraction. Smith wasn’t one of those—he never wanted to get representation out of his work.  

MICHAEL BRENSON: He wanted to give people something that they could respond to, some kind of associative trigger.

NARRATOR: Michael Brenson is a writer and critic. He’s writing a biography of David Smith.

MICHAEL BRENSON: And that trigger very often for him was connected with certain ceremonial or ritual purposes. He never explained his work. He wrote a lot. He talked a lot. But he was extremely reluctant to explain his work. I think one of the reasons for that is that he was so committed, almost ideologically committed, to the freedom of interpretation of people in front of it.

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