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David Smith worked as a welder in a car factory as a young man. Later, he emerged as a sculptor within the context of the New York School in the 1940s and 1950s, and applied his industrial skills to his art-making practice. He said of his preferred medium, welded steel: "The metal itself possesses little art history. What associations it possesses are those of this century: power, structure, movement, progress, suspension, brutality." Smith most often created works in series, culminating in the 1960s with his celebrated "Cubis" sculptures, his only series made of stainless steel. After finding it time-consuming to weld his new material, and not getting exactly the results he wanted, he ordered hollow cubic and cylindrical units from Ryerson Steel, a fabricator. His assistants helped assemble and weld the sculpture, but most of the burnishing was done by the artist himself with the help of just one assistant. "I depend a great deal on the reflective power of light," he said. Compare the elongated, laterally reaching components of Cubi XXVI with the massing of heavier forms in Cubi XI made two years earlier.


on top of bar projecting from cube: David Smith / January 12 1965 / CUBI XXVI


The artist [1906-1965], Bolton Landing, New York; Phillip and Helen B. Stern, Washington, D.C.; purchased 1978 by NGA.

Exhibition History

David Smith, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1966.
Sculpture: American Directions, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, 1975, unnumbered checklist
David Smith: Seven Major Themes, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1982-1983, p. 223, repro.
Twentieth Century Painting and Modern Sculpture, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan, 1983.
David Smith: Skulpturen - Zeichnungen, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main, Federal Republic of Germany; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England, 1986-1987.
The Spirit of American Sculpture: American Art Museum Collections [Twentieth Century American Sculpture at The White House, Exhibition II], The White House, Washington, D.C., 1995, unnumbered brochure, repro.


Greenberg, Clement. "David Smith." Art In America 54 (January 1966): 27-32
Krauss, Rosalind E. Terminal Iron Works. Cambridge, 1971.
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 36, repro.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 651, no. 1032, repro.
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 44, repro.
Strick, Jeremy. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture: Selections for the Tenth Anniversary of the East Building. Washington, D.C., 1989: repro. 104, 105.
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 220, repro.
Marshall, Albert. "A Study of the Surfaces of David Smith's Sculpture." in Studies in the History of Art 51 (1995): 97, 101.
Torres, Louis and Michelle Marder Kamhi. What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand. Peru, Illinois, 2000: 410, nt. 196
Cigola, Francesca. Art Parks: A Tour of America’s Sculpture Parks and Gardens. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2013: 101.

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