It is a drawing line really. I would never have done that if I hadn't been interested in drawing lines... - David Smith
Gagosian New York is pleased to announce an exhibition of David Smith’s Forgings, the groundbreaking series of industrially forged steel sculptures that the artist produced in 1955 and 1956. This is the ninth exhibition of Smith’s work to be presented by Gagosian in collaboration with the Estate of David Smith. Focusing on a pivotal aspect of Smith’s celebrated achievement, this is the first time that all ten 1955 Forgings have been on view together since 1956.
Smith was a pioneer of sculptural welding technique, with which he created a diverse body of work ranging from pure abstraction to evocative figurative constructions. His expansive identity, specific embrace of the modern industrial context for his art, as well as his synthesis of Modernist European influences, contributed to the broad understanding of Smith’s works as the sculptural counterpoints to Abstract Expressionist painting, and to his recognition as one of the preeminent sculptors of the twentieth century. With a particularly American combination of straightforward industry and individual expression, Smith’s Forgings give form to a crucial moment in the history of sculpture. Such works bridge the intense humanism and poetics of Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi to the industrial clarity and grandeur of Donald Judd and Richard Serra.
Smith saw drawing as the most immediate artistic expression, and he continued to paint throughout his life. In his sculpture, he took a direct approach to materials. Aligned with the painters of his time, Smith prioritized the authenticity of gesture and the visual experience of the observer. With the Forgings, he clearly and directly distilled the shared concerns of sculpture and drawing. During his time as a visiting artist at the University of Indiana, with the use of a power forge operated by LeRoy Borton at an industrial factory in Bloomington, Smith translated the spontaneity of a brushed line drawing into sculptural form, manipulating thin steel bars to achieve expressive vertical abstractions. To create the Forgings, he cut, plugged, flattened, pinched and bent each steel bar, later polishing, rusting, painting, lacquering or waxing its surface, but never compromising its vertical simplicity. The Forgings were unprecedented as works created solely through an industrial machined process, but were perhaps even more radical as pre-Minimalist forms intended to provoke discrete responses in each viewer. Each Forging is inscribed IND, alluding to Indiana, its place of origin and of Smith’s birth.
Also on view is a series of egg-ink works on paper produced in 1954 and 1955, leading up to the Forgings. Selected from Smith’s diverse, lifelong engagement with drawing, each depicts a sequence of vertical or horizontal brushstrokes, extensions of his pivotal sculptural reimaginings of the gestural line.
“David Smith: The Forgings” is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Hal Foster.
The exhibition was prepared in close collaboration with the Estate of David Smith.
David Smith was born in 1906 in Decatur, Indiana, and died in a car accident near Bennington, Vermont in 1965. Major exhibitions of his sculptures, paintings, and drawings have been presented worldwide, including solo retrospectives at Museum of Modern Art, New York (1957); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1965–66); Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo (1966, traveled to Tate Gallery, London; Kunsthalle Basel; Stadische Kunstsammlung, Nuremberg; Kunsthalle Nürnberg; and Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, through 1967); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1969, traveled to Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; and Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1979–80, traveled to Serpentine Gallery, London; and Detroit Institute of Art, through 1981); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1982–83, traveled to San Antonio Museum of Art); National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1982–83); Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo (1994, traveled to Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, Shiga; and Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Chiba); IVAM, Valencia (1996, traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid); Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York (1997–99); and Tel Aviv Museum of Art (1999–2000). A centennial retrospective organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2006) traveled to Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Tate Modern, London (through 2007). “David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy,” a survey including sculpture, painting, drawing and photography and focusing on Smith’s exploration of geometric abstraction, was organized by Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2011) and traveled to Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus (through 2012).