In Land Coaster, star-like metal disks rise out of the wheeled platform base, pre-existing elements which Smith has intricately welded together in a collage-like composition such that they sweep skyward with a degree of movement and agility that belies the weightiness of the metal elements and brings to mind the clustering of stars in an astronomical constellation. Demonstrating Smith’s captivating ability to suggest latent figuration through total abstraction, Land Coaster carefully retains a sense of the human figure: a circular disk crowns the top of the vertical structure like a head, and the two wheels at its base ground Land Coaster like feet. In its intricate geometric logic and arresting frontality, the present work is particularly evocative of the artist’s Cubi sculptures; evincing the captivating juxtaposition of abstract form with compelling figuration for which the revered Cubi are known.
In a series of oft-reproduced photographs, Land Coaster is remarkably captured in progress on Smith’s garage studio floor at Bolton Landing and identified by Smith himself with inscriptions on the photograph. Capturing Land Coaster in a state of half-completion magnificently reveals the collage-like approach of found readymade materials that Smith took to his sculptural compositions. Assuming approximately the positions of their ultimate three-dimensional arrangement, the distinct elements of Land Coaster here lay arranged on a strip of floor which Smith painted white. This approach uniquely allowed Smith to compose and rearrange elements without concern of gravity, and the white floor provided him a sharp contrast of color that facilitated his ability to imagine negative space in the finished work. This photograph also reveals numerous works underway in varying stages of completion, notably Doorway on Wheel, also from 1960 and now in the permanent collection of the Harvard Art Museum. That Smith simultaneously worked on and revised numerous sculptures at once reveals the meticulous consideration and painstaking deliberation he paid each element and the collaborative approach he took to creating these sculptures, each informing and influencing one another. Magnificently capturing Smith’s exceptional craftsmanship and exemplifying his revolutionary understanding of sculpture as “drawing in space”, Land Coaster is an enduring monument to the legacy of one of American postwar art’s most radical sculptural innovators.
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