David Smith, Sculptor

I tend to alternate between shows I expect to like and those that will challenge me. When I went to the Royal Academy Expressionist show I expected to be bored. Jackson Pollock etc have just been paint splatterers to me. Never seen the point to them.

But … but then I discovered a piece by Smith  in one of the rooms and I stared at it for … no idea how long. Eventually forced myself to move on, people were looking worried. I was delighted to see his pieces in the courtyard, though their colour tended to blend in with the stone of Burlington House.

So… when I discovered there was a big show of his at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I had to go. Dear reader, this was completely out of character for me. I do not travel half way to Scotland to see the work of a single artist. But … but I had to. And it was utterly wonderful. The best show I have ever seen. And it confirmed what I know from writing history – context is all. By placing his works in the open air they were so much better. They glow with life. Sadly, the show ended yesterday. But here’s some of the pics, some of them were at the RA so you can see the difference.

And the small pieces inside the gallery

This is my favourite, called Hudson River Landscape. You walk around it as you walk through a landscape. He conceived it from spilling ink on his sketchbook whilst on a train.

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This is the man himself, an industrially trained sculptor, a pacifist who built tanks during World War II and who had to move out of his city apartment because he kept setting fire to it. This image is lovely. He ran out of space in his studio near New York, so moved his work outside. Reminds me of a rock star sitting in front of his audience. But is he watching them or they watching him?

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Sadly he died in a car crash in 1965.

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