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: One phrase that is often associated with Smith is “drawing in space.” Welding steel allowed him to produce long, daringly thin lines. 17 h’s, for example, branches out from one zigzagging vertical. This kind of delicate sculptural draftsmanship was impossible in bronze and other traditional materials.

Some of Smith’s sculptures are also like drawings in space because they are relatively flat—like pictures built into three dimensions. The letter-like forms of 17 h’s emphasize that two-dimensionality. The sculpture is almost like an invitation to read language from a page. Peter Stevens.

PETER STEVENS: In 17 h's, he's a created a clearly abstract, unreadable text. So the only meaning it could possibly have is what the viewer would bring to it and the sense that these h's become little chairs, little figures, or simply abstract shapes put into a kind of configuration.

Language was a very important system for Smith. He saw his work as a language and as a language that was more open, more humane, than the written language. He was distrustful of words. He felt often that words were used as ways of limiting thought and creativity, particularly words about art.


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