David Smith - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 11, 2012 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
    Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Sprays from Bolton Landing, July 2 - August 24, 1985

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I will not change an error if it feels right, for the error is more human than perfection. I do not seek answers. I haven’t named this work nor thought where it would go. I haven’t thought what it is for, except that it is made to be seen. I’ve made it because it comes closer to saying who I am than any other method I can use. This work is my identity. There were no words in my mind during its creation, and I’m certain words are not needed in its seeing; and why should you expect understanding when I do not? That is the marvel—to question but not to understanding. Seeing is the true language of perception. Understanding is for words. As far as I am concerned, after I’ve made the work, I’ve said everything I can say.” – David Smith
    (D. Smith, speech at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, April 17, 1959)

    For David Smith, his identity as an artist was the personal foundation of everything he did and was. It was as clear to him as the tablets to Moses. It was the dearly won prize from long years of struggle in the "battle of being," as he called it. From that core of identity he could consistently strike with utter conviction with the brush on paper, the alignment of sculptural elements on the shop floor, or any other medium, and the stroke would be guided inevitably by that inner compass. Identity is the sum total of personal truth, and conviction is the force with which identity is expressed. There was no intermediary, as he always said; his art was his identity. (C. N. Smith, "The Fields of David Smith”, Storm King Art Center, New York, 1999, pp. 17-38.)
    Predominantly praised as one the greatest American sculptors of the twentieth-century, David Smith brilliantly wove together a range of art influences to form his own unique signature of work. In many respects Smith translated the painterly concerns of the Abstract Expressionists into sculpture, and in the late 1950s, during a time spend at his home in Bolton Landing, he transcribed the ideas that went into his sculpture back into painting. Bringing qualities of industrial manufacturing into the language of his art, Smith used this technique to create masterful paintings that mimicked the designs and shapes of his extolled sculpture. By merging sculpture and painting, the artist was able to achieve a new form of art, which cleverly consisted of painterly sculptures and sculptural paintings.
    In addition to carrying over his sculptural forms into his two dimensional artwork, the idea of the totem, a tribal art-form that represents a group of related people, was also an inspiration to Smith throughout his career, and something for which he tried to find a modern form. Freud's ideas about totems led him to think of them as a fitting symbol for a world driven by violence, but it also suggested the idea that the sculptural object might keep the viewer at a distance, that it might almost be an object of fear and reverence. The present lot, Untitled, 1959, displays the artist’s intrigue in the totem. The tall narrow canvas stacks abstract figures, raising their own totem out of spray paint. The metallic palette is reminiscent of his stainless steel sculptures, giving the sense of piling or erecting materials. The present lot is a brilliant example of Smith’s many talents as both a sculptor and a painter. The work is mechanical and organic, sculptural and painterly all at once, about which, Smith concedes "There is no conceptual difference between painting and sculpture… The position of creating does not change… just because the medium does."



spray paint and oil on canvas
114 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. (291.5 x 24.8 cm)
Signed and dated "David Smith 1959" on the face.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Contemporary Art Day Sale

Contemporary Art Day
11 May 2012
New York