David Smith - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of the Artist
    Collection of Tom Ingle, Connecticut
    Private Collection, by descent from the above
    Christie’s, New York, Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, November 10, 2009, lot 9
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Willard Gallery, David Smith, Sculpture 1946-1947, April 1 – April 26, 1947, no. 14
    Essex, Connecticut, Essex Art Association, 1947
    Worcester, John Woodman Higgins Armory, David Smith, June – October 1947

  • Literature

    David Smith, Sculpture 1946-1947, exh. cat., Willard Gallery, New York, 1947, n.p. (illustrated)
    M. Walter,“Sculptor in Metals Shows Work Here,” Worcester Daily Telegram, June 13, 1947
    David Smith 1906-1965: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1966, p. 70, no. 147
    R. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith - A Catalogue Raisonné, New York: Garland Publishing, 1977, no. 198 (illustrated)
    David Smith, exh. cat., Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2006, p. 43

    This sculpture will be included in a new catalogue raisonné of David Smith's sculpture being prepared by The Estate of David Smith.

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I would like to make sculpture that would rise from
    water and tower in the air–
    that carried conviction and vision that had not
    existed before"

    DAVID SMITH, c. 1940s

    In 1956, formalist art critic Clement Greenberg declared David Smith “the best sculptor of his generation.” (Clement Greenberg, “David Smith,” in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 3, 1956, p. 277) Smith’s artistic training began in 1926 upon his relocation from the Midwestern United States to New York City. In New York, Smith met his future wife, sculptor Dorothy Dehner, who encouraged him to enroll at the Art Students League as well as to participate in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, where he cultivated many relationships with burgeoning artists such as Milton Avery and Adolph Gottlieb. Collector and connoisseur John Graham, who counted Pollock, de Kooning, Gorky, as well as gallerists Ileana Sonnabend and Leo Castelli, as his mentors, took an interest in Smith. Graham exposed Smith to the developing avant-garde style from Europe and introduced him to the New York art scene of the 1940s. Upon seeing photographs of welded metal sculptures by Pablo Picasso and Julio González, Smith, as a former welder in the American Locomotive Company, realized he had already acquired the technical skill to begin executing his own welded sculptures in the quasi-abstract idiom. Smith set up his studio at the Terminal Iron Works in the Brooklyn Navy Yard; as an artist working in the company of commercial welders, Smith quickly learned new technical skills from his fellow workmen. Metal materials were thrilling for Smith--steel was a medium that harked back to industry and the military power of World War II. Moreover, as an artistic material, it seemed to him like a clean slate, not yet infused with a well-defined art historical past. As Smith proclaimed in a speech he gave in 1959, “Discarding the old methods and equipment will not of course make art. It has only been a symbol in creative freedom from the bondage of tradition and outside authority.” (D. Smith, speech at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, April 17, 1959)

    Smith’s departure from New York City in the 1940s to the rural environment of Bolton Landing, New York, a small town amongst the Adirondack Mountains, transformed his work. His studio was stockpiled with raw materials, which allowed him the freedom to explore and combine different techniques; the ingenious and stunning quality of his work is evident in Smith’s delicate handling of his materials, carefully molding and wielding the metal to create multifaceted surfaces. Inspired by his natural surroundings, Smith began to create a new series of “landscape” sculptures in 1946. By sketching the landscapes observed on his train trips between New York City and his upstate home, Smith captured the mountainous terrain and exquisite beauty of the Adirondack region. These organic sculptures focus on linearity, rather than physical mass, and often frame an abstract border around the composition. Reminiscent of his original sketches, his landscape sculptures highlight the flowing lines of the artist’s markings. Smith explained his vision of sculptural creation, “Casting can be achieved in almost every town. Visions are from the imaginative mind, sculpture can come from the found discards in nature, from sticks and stones and parts and pieces, assembled or monolithic, solid form, open form, lines of form, or, like a painting, the illusion of form. And sculpture can be painting and painting can be sculpture and no authority can overrule the artist in his declaration.” (D. Smith, speech at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, April 17, 1959)

    The present lot, Abandoned Foundation (Landscape), 1946, executed in steel and bronze, perfectly demonstrates Smith’s unparalleled ability to fuse incongruent elements in the creation of a comprehensive, fluid, sculptural composition. The natural, sweeping crescent moon-shaped figure sprouts from an industrial geometric structure that appears to be suspended in air. Drawing influence from earlier sculptors such as Julio González and Alberto Giacometti, Smith gleaned visual stimulus from myriad sources including fossilized fish, Life magazine photographs, and Egyptian tomb furnishings. His stockpile of stored visual fragments allowed him to develop and refine his unique and endlessly evolving style of sculpting. Friend and fellow artist Robert Motherwell described Smith’s environment and work, noting, “David places his work against the mountains and sky, the impulse was plain, an ineffable desire to see his humanness related to exterior reality, to nature at least if not man, for the marvel of the felt scale that exists between a true work and the immovable world, the relationship that makes both human.” (Robert Motherwell, “For David Smith,” in David Smith, exh. cat., Willard Gallery, New York, n.p.) This endless quest for the artistic representation of “humanness” within nature and the industrial world drove Smith’s artistic production at Bolton Landing until his final days. Arranging his welded sculptures outside his home, much the way Greek sculptures filled the precincts surrounding ancient temples, Smith’s army of sculptures defended his natural sanctuary. Forging his own artistic path, Smith proudly proclaimed “You know who I am and who I stand for. I have no allegiance, but I stand, and I know what challenge is, and I challenge everything and everybody. And I think that is what every artist has to do…We’re challenging the world…I’m going to work to the best of my ability until I die, challenging what’s given to me.” (The artist quoted in “The Secret Letter,” Thomas B. Hess’s interview with Smith, David Smith, exh. cat., New York: Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, 1964, n.p.)



Abandoned Foundation (Landscape)

steel, bronze on artist's wood base
13 1/4 x 15 3/4 x 5 1/8 in. (33.7 x 40 x 13 cm.)
Signed and dated "David Smith 1946" on the base.

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM