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American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist

June 1, 1978 – January 14, 1979
East Building, Upper Level (12,000 sq. ft.)

David Smith, Voltri VII, 1962, iron, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1977.60.4

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: 63 paintings, drawings, and sculptures by 7 American artists of the abstract expressionist movement were installed in separate spaces on the upper level. The artists included Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning. The Tower Gallery held 13 of David Smith's Voltri sculptures, placed on steps and platforms reminiscent of the Roman amphitheater at Spoleto, where his welded sculptures had been shown in 1962. Rough, textured quartz aggregate and epoxy were used on all the surfaces for the display of the objects. This material was also used with great success in many later installations: Treasure Houses of Britain, Sculpture of India, Suleyman, and Sweden, as well as on numerous sculpture pedestals. The Voltri sculptures by David Smith remained in the Tower Gallery through June 15, 1979.

Organization: Gaillard Ravenel, Mark Leithauser, and E.A. Carmean designed the exhibition, and Gordon Anson designed the lighting.

Sponsor: The exhibition was supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Catalog: American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist, by E.A. Carmean Jr. and Eliza E. Rathbone, with Thomas B. Hess. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1978.