From Creation to Now: David Smith's 'Voltri-Bolton X'

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Launch Slideshow

In 1962 David Smith was invited by the Italian government to make two sculptures for a festival in Spoleto. For one intensely creative month, Smith set up a studio in an abandoned welding factory in the town of Voltri. Upon returning to his studio in Bolton Landing, New York, the artist embarked upon his ambitious Voltri-Bolton series (1962–63), a group of 25 sculptures that perfectly articulates Smith’s desire to create what he called “drawings in space.” Remarkably, the making of Voltri-Bolton X was documented in Smith’s Bolton Landing studio by photojournalist Dan Budnik. Through Budnik's images and other photographs, we chart the life of Voltri-Bolton X, from the studio and grounds of Bolton Landing, to the international museums where it has been exhibited and the collection of Jerome and Ellen Stern, the work’s home for more than four decades.

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PHOTO CREDIT: SARA KRULWICH/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX

From Creation to Now: David Smith's 'Voltri-Bolton X'

  • PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN BUDNIK
    David Smith with Voltri-Bolton X in his Bolton Landing studio
    Acclaimed for his images documenting the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, Dan Budnik was also known for his photographs of artists, including Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko and Smith. In December 1962, Budnik visited Bolton Landing, where he photographed Smith’s house, the sculptures installed in the snowy, surrounding fields, and the artist in his studio during the creation of Voltri-Bolton X. What Budnik was aiming for, he recalled many years later, was “to photograph Smith in an anecdotal, highly sequential way. Like a film, but with the distillation of time.”


  • PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN BUDNIK
    David Smith with Voltri-Bolton X in his Bolton Landing studio
    During his time in Italy, Smith was given access to several abandonded factories from which he salvaged tools and industrial detritus and shipped it all back to Bolton Landing. These collected materials – visible in Budnik’s photos – were used to extraordinary effect in Voltri-Bolton X. To create the composition of striking square elements around the perimeter of the central circular form of the finished Voltri-Bolton X, Smith arranged shards of metal detritus into a composition on his studio floor.



  • PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN BUDNIK
    David Smith with Voltri-Bolton X in his Bolton Landing studio
    Voltri-Bolton X is the last sculpture of the series executed in the initial year of 1962, with the remaining fifteen sculptures completed over the course of the following year. Combining both found and forged material, the Voltri-Boltons represent a conceptual bridge between the remarkable burst of creativity that consumed Smith at Voltri and his major later series, such as the geometric Cubi.


  • PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN BUDNIK
    David Smith with Voltri-Bolton X in his Bolton Landing studio
    The artist’s daughter Candida Smith recalls, “My father returned home that summer invigorated and jubilant. …It was after his return from Italy that the fields began to burgeon at an amazing rate. It was as if the creative explosion and the resulting enormous installation in Spoleto ignited a fire that did not burn out. The Voltri-Boltons were made along with the painted circle pieces, Primo Pianos, Zigs and Cubis.”

  • PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN BUDNIK
    Voltri-Bolton X in David Smith's North Field, Terminal Iron Works, Bolton Landing, New York, 1962-63
    In its upright position, the skeletal form of the sculpture balances upon a single pillar of roughened steel, the four hinged blacksmith tongs affixed to the crown reach triumphantly towards the sky. The grandeur of scale, physicality of material and intuitive fusion of disparate influences exemplified in Voltri-Bolton X find particular affinity with the radical abstraction of such artists as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.

  • PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN BUDNIK
    Voltri-Bolton X in David Smith's North Field, Terminal Iron Works, Bolton Landing, New York, 1962-63
    Installed at Bolton Landing, Voltri-Bolton X surveyed its comrades in Smith’s iconic fields. By the artist’s death in 1965, the fields were filled with more than 80 sculptures, as Smith carefully stationed his standing sentinels in conjunction with each other and with the dramatic surrounding landscape.

  • PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIAN CASSADY
    Voltri-Bolton X in Jerome and Ellen Stern's Upper West Side residence
    Although Voltri-Bolton X  has been installed outdoors, for over four decades it was in the collection of Jerome and Ellen Stern, who lived with the work in their apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

  • PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN BUDNIK
    Voltri-Bolton X in David Smith's North Field, Terminal Iron Works, Bolton Landing, New York, Winter 1962-63
    The Sterns’ zeal for discovering new pieces is illustrated in the story behind their acquisition of Voltri-Bolton X. Jerome drove hours to Bolton Landing. In his excited determination, he had not adequately prepared for the winter weather that greeted him. Undeterred, he trudged through the snow banks in his designer loafers to select his sculpture from among the seminal Voltri series.

  • PHOTO CREDIT: SARA KRULWICH/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX
    Voltri-Bolton X on exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York
    Testifying to its historical importance, Voltri-Bolton X was featured in the 2006 exhibition David Smith: A Centennial, organised by the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Most recently, the sculpture was selected to represent Smith’s oeuvre in the landmark Abstract Expressionism exhibition which opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2016 and travelled to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao earlier this year.

  • © CNAC/MNAM/DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS / ART RESOURCE, NY
    Voltri-Bolton X on exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris
    The 2006 exhibition David Smith: A Centennial, organized by the Guggenheim Museum, travelled to both the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London.

  • Voltri-Bolton X on exhibition at Chatsworth in England
    Most recently Voltri-Bolton X was on exhibition in the sprawling grounds of Chatsworth House as a highlight of Sotheby’s twelfth edition of Beyond Limits – the annual exhibition of monumental sculpture.

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