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The Sculpture of David Smith (1906–1965), Part 1

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art.

David Smith (1906–1965) is arguably America’s greatest sculptor of the 20th century. His art enlarged the vocabulary of sculpture by employing welding and industrial processes and materials, laying the groundwork for the directness of minimalism and the realization that sculpture could be anything the artist desired. Smith’s oeuvre is a logical outgrowth of earlier 20th-century sculptural trends in cubism, constructivism, and surrealism. However, his work also represents a new paradigm for the language of modern sculpture that reflects the dynamic growth and industrial prowess of the United States after the Second World War. Smith’s confrontation with the process of creation broke the rules and expanded the possibilities of his art form. In part one of this lecture, presented at the National Gallery of Art on March 7, 2019, senior lecturer David Gariff explores Smith’s revolutionary art through a discussion of some of his most important and innovative works, including the Agricola, Tanktotem, Sentinel, Zig, Voltri, and Cubi series.

07/30/2019