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.


MICHAEL BRENSON: One of the first things one could say about it is that although this sculpture is called The Hero, it's one of the least heroic images of a human figure imaginable.

NARRATOR: Michael Brenson.

MICHAEL BRENSON: It's disproportioned. The interior of the body seems to be completely exposed. The spine of the body seems barely enough to support the huge head on top of it.
Then beyond that you've got this odd little bend in the neck on which the head is supported, almost as if it's supported on the point of a pin. So it looks like if you pushed against that head it would start spinning around.

Is it something that has some kind of impact or power over the people in front of it so that it looks as if you could kneel down in front of it and maybe you'd put something on the altar from which the body arises so that there's almost a sense of sacrifice in front of it? But also that it itself seems to be something that's sacrificed.

That's not untypical of Smith, not uncharacteristic, and a particular way in which he began to play, I think, with the notion of authority. So he would build these sculptures up that seemed like emblems or signs of authority. And yet, at the same time, the power seems to be, almost on some level, taken away.


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