David Smith Sculpture Exhibition at LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy, the first major thematic exhibition devoted to the renowned twentieth-century American sculptor David Smith (1906-65), on view April 3 through July 24, 2011, in the museum‘s new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion.

Organized by LACMA, the exhibition will bring together more than 100 works and reveal a sculptor whose identification with the working class motivated him to adopt the geometric forms of the constructivist avant-garde (modernist artists who used hard-edged geometries to express utopian optimism) from the very first years of his career in the 1930s until his untimely death in 1965. Cubes and Anarchy includes sculptures, drawings, paintings, and photographs—many provided by the Estate of David Smith, which lent not only significant sculptures but also revelatory sketchbooks and photos, only a few of which have been exhibited previously.


David Smith, Cubi XXIII, 1964, stainless steel, 76 ¼ x 172 ⅞ x 32 in. (193.7 x 439.1 x 81.3 cm), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Modern and Contemporary Art Council Fund, M.67.26, © Estate of David Smith/ VAGA, New York, photo © 2010 Museum Associates/LACMA

David Smith is a protean talent who created sculptures that Donald Judd once described as ‗some of the best in the world,‘ yet there has not been an exhibition of Smith‘s work on the West Coast since a memorial show at LACMA in 1965,‖ says Carol S. Eliel, exhibition curator and LACMA curator of modern art. ―David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy considers for the first time the entirety of the artist‘s career while focusing on the theme of geometry in his work,‖ she added.

Exhibition Overview
Widely heralded as the greatest American sculptor of the twentieth century, Smith has often been presented as a counterpart to the abstract expressionist painters or as a draftsman in space. Most scholarship has viewed Smith‘s early work as developing out of surrealism and his later hard-edged forms as foreshadowing minimalism. Cubes and Anarchy offers a fresh interpretation of Smith, revealing geometry as a constant throughout his career, a leitmotif that was deeply connected to the artist‘s self-definition as a working man and his interest in international constructivism. From his earliest small-scale sculptures to his last monumental works, what Smith called ―basic geometric form‖ was a powerful touchstone for the artist. LACMA‘s exhibition title derives from Smith‘s recollection that his concept of ―cubes and anarchy‖ stemmed from the painter John Sloan, his teacher at New York‘s Art Students League in the 1920s, who exposed him to cubism, constructivism, and progressive social movements. As art critic Dore Ashton noted, Sloan ―not only brought [Smith] into the modern art world, but also into the world of political commitment.‖

About David Smith
Smith was born in Indiana in 1906. In 1926 he moved to New York City, where he studied at the Art Students League. After establishing his studio in a foundry on the Brooklyn waterfront in the 1930s, in 1940 Smith moved to Bolton Landing, on Lake George in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. He showed regularly in New York City beginning in 1938 and already by the 1940s was championed by critic Clement Greenberg; in the 1950s Smith developed friendships with abstract expressionist painters including Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline. Smith‘s sculptures were exhibited not only across the United States but also internationally, including in the Venice Biennale (1958), the São Paulo Bienal (1959), and Documenta (1964). Smith died in an automobile accident in 1965.

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