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: Michael Brenson reacts to Cubi I.

MICHAEL BRENSON: One of the interesting questions that this sculpture raises for me, it's Cubi I but it wasn't the first Cubi. The first two Cubis were, in fact, Cubis IX and III. They were made in October and November of 1961. This sculpture was made a year and a half later. So what is he doing?

I don't think he did that with any other series. I think they were all numerically sequential and made that way. So why here?

My sense is that he sort of had this idea with him, always one thing led to another. He was not a linear. He didn't believe in linearity. It was a work stream. So that kind of logic of one thing after another thing after another thing after another thing in which everything would be perfectly related to what came before wasn't part of him.

His mind worked more in leaps than that. He wasn't someone who existed within the kinds of ... He didn't like boundaries and his mind didn't work that way. But I ask myself why is this called "Cubi I"? Then I sort of feel like, "Well, maybe this is the mother form." I know it's talked about as being largely abstract, but maybe it isn't. Maybe one can read the diamond on the body as the belly of a really huge female.

Maybe the cubes that rise out of that then begin to form the top of the body, the body, both breasts and shoulders, and head . . . And maybe this is a great fertility figure, almost like one of the ancient—the Venuses of Willendorf or whatever—and maybe this is his version of it.


More Audio Guides

Nick Mauss: Transmissions audio guide
Between the Waters audio guide
Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables audio guide
Juan Antonio Olivares audio guide
Laura Owens audio guide
Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World audio guide