20
20
David Smith
UNTITLED
Estimate
2,500,0003,500,000
LOT SOLD. 2,210,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
20
David Smith
UNTITLED
Estimate
2,500,0003,500,000
LOT SOLD. 2,210,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

David Smith
1906 - 1965
UNTITLED
inscribed with the artist's name and dated 1-28-63 along the edge of the vertical panel
steel, painted white
88 x 33 x 26 in. 223.5 x 83.8 x 60 cm.
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Provenance

Estate of the artist
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in March 2004

Exhibited

New York, M. Knoedler & Co., David Smith: Drawing and Sculpture, October - November 1986, checklist no.14
Mountainville, New York, Storm King Art Center, The Fields of David Smith [Part I], May - November 1997, checklist n.p., illustrated on the inside front cover and p. 4
Mountainville, New York, Storm King Art Center, The Fields of David Smith [Part II], May - November 1998, checklist n.p.
Mountainville, New York, Storm King Art Center, The Fields of David Smith [Part III], May - November 1999, checklist n.p.
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, David Smith: Paintings, Sculptures and Medals, November 1999 - February 2000, checklist no. 48, p. 78, illustrated in color
New York, Gagosian Gallery, David Smith, Related Clues: Drawings, Paintings and Sculpture 1931-1964, March - April 2004, p. 115, illustrated in color (at Storm King, 1998)

Literature

Exh. Cat. Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum and travelling, David Smith 1906-1965: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1966, checklist no. 487,  p. 81
Hilton Kramer, "Altering of Smith Work Stirs Dispute," The New York Times, September 13, 1974, p. 28, illustrated
Paul Richard, "The Alteration of David Smith's Sculpture: An Esthetic Crime?" The Washington Post, September 22, 1974, p. H5, illustrated
Rosalind E. Krauss, "Issues and Commentary: Changing the Work of David Smith," Art in America 62, September - October 1974, pp. 30-31, illustrated in color
Rosalind E. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York and London, 1977, cat. no. 628, fig. no. 628, illustrated
Exh. Cat.,Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, David Smith, 1982, fig. 32, p. 61, illustrated (at Bolton Landing, Spring 1963) and fig. 33, p. 62, illustrated (at Bolton Landing, June 1965)
Exh. Cat. Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Smithsonian Institution, From The Life of the Artist: A Documentary View of David Smith. An Exhibition Drawn from the David Smith Papers, 1982, p. 49, illustrated in color
John Beardsley, "Critic at Large: Storm King's Muse," Landscape Architecture 88, no. 8, August 1998, p. 139, illustrated in color
Irving Sandler and Candida Smith, The Fields of David Smith, New York & London,1999, illustrated: pp. 4-5 (at Storm King, 1998, color), p. 8 (at Bolton Landing, 1963), p. 23 (at Bolton Landing, 1965, color), p. 42 (at Bolton Landing, 1967), pp. 62-63 (at Bolton Landing, 1963), pp. 86-87 (at Storm King, 1997, color), p. 89 (at Storm King, 1997, color), p. 112 (at Storm King, 1998), and pp. 114-115 (at Storm King, 1998, color)
Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre Pompidou, David Smith: A Centennial, 2006, fig. 8, p. 48 and fig. 9, p. 49, illustrated (at Bolton Landing, 1965)
Sarah Hamill, David Smith: Works, Writings, Interview, Barcelona, 2011, p. 13, illustrated

Catalogue Note

David Smith embodied an independence of spirit that characterized many of the American artists who emerged at the midpoint of the 20th Century. Smith combined a refusal to choose one convention, aesthetic genre or form above another with a forceful determination to achieve a singular vision and artistic identity. Throughout his career, Smith applied the most avant-garde artistic painterly innovations - including Cubism, Constructivism, Surrealism and Expressionism - to his sculptural forms, combining aesthetic daring with immense skill in a variety of sculptural materials. Ultimately, Smith created one of the most consistently confident bodies of work from the mid-century, establishing a new kind of sculptural invention that achieves a fusion of abstraction and figuration. Most importantly in reference to Untitled from 1963, Smith also successfully challenged the distinction between painting and sculpture. Originating his artistic career as a painter, Smith reveled in the interplay between his Spray Paintings and Untitled 1963, with its bold white painted surface that elucidates the creative connections of the two-dimensional with the three-dimensional in his oeuvre.

Critics have long noted the use of linear invention in Smith’s work which leads to tributes of his innate skill for “drawing in space”. As a sculptor, Smith’s predilection for painted and treated surfaces, often with a gestural expression akin to his abstract brethren on canvas, extended his use of  two-dimensional practices in volumetric form, particularly in the series of Zigs, Wagons, Circles, and Primo Pianos. Along with the three Primo Pianos, Circle and Box, Oval Node and 2 Circle 2 Crows, all of 1962-1963, Untitled comprises a group of all-white painted sculptures that Smith particularly intended for outdoor installation. Famously, Clement Greenberg was taken to task for stripping five of the eight white sculptures during the time he was custodian of the artist’s estate, inciting a dispute with headlines that questioned “an aesthetic crime” (The Washington Post, September 22, 1974). All have been repainted under the supervision of the artist’s estate, returning them to Smith’s original intent as masterful statements of his genius for positive and negative space. In the spray paintings and drawings, Smith had placed metal geometric parts on the sheet or canvas while applying the pigment and in their removal he created a white negative space from the absence of the objects. In similar fashion, the cubist solidity of Untitled 1963 is pierced by several circles, providing the spectator with a myriad of views of the surrounding landscape as we ourselves circle around the sculpture. In a reversal of the Spray Paintings, Smith has here rendered the solid “positive” volume in white, while the woods, sky and fields of Bolton Landing provide the open “negative” and limitless space of Untitled 1963. In its relation to the landscape, Untitled 1963 is a thoughtful juxtaposition to the grand series of Cubi sculptures which also occupied Smith that same year. The reflective qualities of the polished stainless steel surface of the Cubis, burnished with almost painterly abandon, merged Smith’s most volumetrically forceful sculptures into the landscape, as light and imagery of sky and landscape created an optical synthesis which was the final development of his lifelong preoccupation with the possibilities of color in sculpture.

Aside from Smith’s innate love of the positive/negative duality of the “cut-out” aesthetic, another dominant theme present in Untitled is the singular emphasis on the circle. In its purity, ubiquitous presence and metaphorical possibilities, the circle was a central and indispensable motif in Smith’s aesthetic vocabulary. Not simply a geometric form, the circle holds connotations to both figurative and landscape elements that Smith employed masterfully in sculptural contexts. As such, Untitled 1963 exemplifies the apt presence of the circle as a unifying principle in Smith’s great installation of his sculpture throughout the Bolton Landing fields outside his studio. In its verticality and minimalist form, Untitled 1963 joins ranks with the anthropomorphic use of the circle in the marching Sentinels, elegant Tanktotems and robust Voltri sculptures in Smith’s canon of “series sculptures” for which he was justly famous. At the same time, in its illusions to landscape, Untitled 1963 harks back to the presence of the circle as nature in works such as the Surrealist Helmholtzian Landscape from 1946 and the linear masterpiece of the Hudson River Landscape from 1951. In his essay for the celebratory retrospective of Smith’s work in his centennial year of 2006, Paul Hayes Tucker writes of the poetic resonance of this elemental geometric form in Smith’s oeuvre: “The circle held special meaning for Smith …It is a perfect, utopian shape, unbroken, continuous, and eternal, something he yearned for in life as well as in art. It is the earth, the sun, the stars, the heavens, a symbol of nature to which he was devoted. It is the head, the stomach, the womb, the buttocks ….It is innocence and sophistication, youthfulness and maturity, suppleness and security.”  (Paul Hayes Tucker, “Family Matters: David Smith’s Series Sculptures” in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and travelling, David Smith: a Centennial, 2006, p. 80)  Just as the swirling and reflective stainless steel of the Cubis allows light and nature to exist within the steel rather than on it, Smith’s white surface of Untitled 1963 balances an elegant, yet volumetric presence of solidity with open spaces and the expansiveness of nature. As a universal symbol, the circles that pierce and liberate the spatial potential of Untitled are the ultimate agency for this transformation.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York