David Smith: Sculpture 1932-1965 at YSP
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) presents a major exhibition of over 40 works by the pioneering and highly influential American artist David Smith(1906-1965) from 22 June2019 to 5 January 2020. Widely hailed as one of the 20th century’s outstanding sculptors, this is the first solo exhibition of Smith’s work in the UK since Tate Modern’s 2006 project and the largest ever outside the capital.
This landmark exhibition charts the development of Smith’s unique visual language over four decades, crucially bringing together a number of his sculptures in the open-air that are rarely seen in this way outside the USA. Within the Underground Gallery over 30 sculptures trace an unfolding narrative of material, technique and form. Beginning with Smith’s earliest constructions from the 1930s that combine wood with elements including mussel and clamshells, wire and nails, the exhibition spans work through to the artist’s mature, bold, large-scale painted and stainless steel sculptures of the 1960s.
Smith challenged sculptural conventions and was the first artist in the USA to work with welded metal, becoming known for his mastery of steel. Although hugely influential to the development of abstract sculpture internationally, few of his works are held in non-US public collections, so he is rarely shown in Europe. Displayed at YSP, an incisive selection of sculptures includes major loans from museums and private collections, together with works from the artist’s estate, including objects from his home that have not previously been exhibited.
Given the unique indoor-outdoor nature of YSP, a starting point for the exhibition is the importance to Smith of having his work in the open air, which in 1950 Robert Mother well expressed as, “…an ineffable desire to see his humanness related to exterior reality, to nature at least if not to man.” Smith’s life was inextricably associated with his rural home and studio at Bolton Landing in upstate New York, where from the mid-1950s onwards, he filled the surrounding fields with sculpture, enjoying seeing them against the landscape, with the play of changing light across their surfaces. These sculptures were his companions, his achievements, and inspiration for future sculptures and by the time of his death in 1965, dozens of sculptures occupied ‘the fields’. Primo Piano III(1962), one of only three similar works by Smith, also makes a critical contribution to the open-air display.*
David Smith: Sculpture 1932-1965
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Part of Yorkshire Sculpture International
22 June 2019–5 January 2020
Underground Gallery and Open Air
*Source: YSP Press release