David Smith: A Centennial

David Smith: A Centennial


Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Dates: February 3–May 14, 2006
Press Preview: Thursday, February 2, 2006

Deemed the "foremost sculptor of his generation" by art critic Clement Greenberg, David Smith (1906–1965) will be celebrated in the exhibition David Smith: A Centennial, the first retrospective of the artist's work in New York City since the Guggenheim's in 1969. This landmark exhibition will bring together seminal sculptures of the artist's oeuvre as well as important examples of his drawings and notebooks over his 40 year career, revealing Smith's singular achievements in post-war American abstraction.

Following the example set by Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, Smith constructed work directly out of iron and steel sheets and wires rather than employing traditional casting methods. In the 1930s and 1940s, influenced by Surrealism and Constructivism, Smith created hybrid figural sculptures and dramatic mise-en-scenes. In the 1950s, he began to work in stylistic series ranging from the complicated abstract drawings-in-space of the Agricolas to the anthropomorphic and totemic sculptures incorporating machine parts such as the Sentinels and Tank Totems. In the later part of the decade and into the 1960s, his work became more volumetric, as in his series of Voltris, Wagons, and Cubis.

The exhibition, curated by Carmen Giménez, Curator of Twentieth-century Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, will comprise approximately 110 sculptures dating from 1932 to 1965, as well as a selection of the artist's related drawings, and will fill the ramps of the Frank Lloyd Wright building and several galleries in the addition. David Smith: A Centennial will demonstrate the ways in which Smith developed and explored themes and forms through his early Surrealist - and Constructivist-inspired work, as well as his series of the 1950s and 1960s. Each period will be represented by important examples from museums and private collections, including many works rarely seen in public. Considering his art as a totality, this retrospective will provide audiences with the opportunity to understand the complexity of Smith's aesthetic concerns as well as his impact on the course of American sculpture.

Smith has been the subject of several exhibitions in the United States, and to a more limited extent, abroad. Following Smith's death in 1965, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum organized an important exhibition of his work in 1969. Other significant presentations have included in-depth exhibitions of Smith's works on paper and paintings, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art's 1979 show, and smaller exhibitions focused on one series or aspect of his sculpture, such as the 2000 presentation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden both presented important retrospectives of Smith's work in 1982. David Smith: A Centennial will constitute the first retrospective of his sculpture since then.

A smaller version of David Smith: A Centennial will tour to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, from June 14 to September 11, 2006, where it will be curated by Pompidou Deputy Director Isabelle Monod-Fontaine with Associate Curator Bénédicte Ajac. The exhibition will then also be presented at the Tate Modern, London, from October 4, 2006 through January 3, 2007, where it will be curated by Tate Senior Curator Frances Morris. While exhibitions of Smith's work have traveled extensively in the United States, Germany and Great Britain, this will mark Smith's first one-man museum exhibition in France.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a 512-page fully illustrated catalogue, which will feature scholarly essays and newly produced photographs of nearly every sculpture in the exhibition. In addition to Carmen Gimenez, the exhibition's curator, contributors to the catalogue include David Anfam, author and art historian; Michael Brenson, critic and curator; Dominique Fourcade, poet; Rosalind Krauss, University Professor of Modern Art and Theory at Columbia University and Paul Hayes Tucker, Professor of Art at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The collection of essays will give in-depth attention to areas that have been only occasionally addressed in the literature on the artist to date, such as Smith's relationship to the painters of the New York School, the dual development of his family life and series sculpture through the 1950s and 1960s, and his use of the landscape outside his studio in formulating his late works. The catalogue also will feature the most comprehensive research on Smith yet published—including a newly compiled and extended bibliography; a comprehensive exhibition history; a chronology; and an illustrated checklist with provenance, exhibition history and bibliographic references for each sculpture in the exhibition—finally bringing scholarship on the artist to the level of other important American artists of his generation, such as Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.

This exhibition is organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou and Tate Modern.
This exhibition is sponsored by Deutsche Bank.
Additional support is provided by The Henry Luce Foundation.
This exhibition is further made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dedalus Foundation, Inc., and the The Lipman Family Foundation.

July 29, 2005

Betsy Ennis / Leily Soleimani
Guggenheim Public Affairs
Email: publicaffairs@guggenheim.org


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